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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Lawyer
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Satisfied Customers: 27091
Experience:  Practicing for over 20 years and handled many cases and trials for consumers.
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Sprint changed their terms of service effective 7/1/2013.

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Sprint changed their terms of service effective 7/1/2013. I declined to accept these changes within 30 days and according to their own existing terms if a material change to the agreement is made and a subscriber chooses not to accept within 30 days the service will be canceled without early termination fees charged. I requested Sprint cancel my service and they refused to waive the early termination fees stating the following in response to a complaint I made through the BBB.

____

Effective July 1, 2013 (“July 1” changes) Sprint clarified provisions in its Service Agreement, as it does from time to time pursuant to the provision reserving the right to make changes. The July 1 changes removed provisions unique to our iDEN network and services, which shutdown on June 30, 2013. The July 1 changes also added additional language to further clarify several of its current practices including, but not limited to, its billing, collections, and network management practices. The changes also included modifications to the arbitration provision.

Sprint would not waive the ETF in his Service Agreement because there was no “material adverse” change to the terms of service. As stated in the Ts&Cs, Sprint must waive the ETF if Sprint changes the Service Agreement in a manner that is material and adverse to the customer.

____

I believe that by law any change to the language in a contract is "material" as that is a legal term and Sprint does not get to define it. Additionally, whether such a change is deemed adverse or not seems irrelevant in that I believe one party cannot change language in an agreement and bind the other party to it because that party one-sidedly deems the change to be "non-adverse".

Am I correct in thinking that legally Sprint cannot change the terms of our agreement, bind me to those changes, and then charge me early termination fees because I choose not to accept the new terms? It would appear that Sprint could deem anything as being non-adverse and then bind customers to all sorts of potentially abusive conditions if I am wrong about this. And, if I am correct, what type of attorney would I need to seek out in order to file a case?

Thank you,
David Newbold XXX@XXXXXX.XXX
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Consumer Protection Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 1 year ago.

JD 1992 :

Hello, and thank you for contacting Just Answer. I am an expert here and I look forward to assisting you today.

JD 1992 :

I've read through your facts.

JD 1992 :

You are correct in your thinking in general. However, the issue in this case is whether it was an actual change to the contract or whether they were just clarifying their position.

JD 1992 :

Also, you are incorrect in your statement that "by law any change to the language in a contract is "material".

JD 1992 :

What is and is not a material change is a question of fact for a court to determine.

JD 1992 :

Just as an example, if your contract required you to send your payments to one address and the company changed its billing department to another address, but changed nothing else about the contract then it is extremely unlikely a court would find that to be a "material change" or allow you to escape from the contract due to that change.

JD 1992 :

However, whether Sprint deems it to be non-adverse isn't an issue either, the issue is whether it is adverse, not whether they call it that or not.

JD 1992 :

If you do feel that the changes were material then you would want to hire a lawyer that does "Civil Litigation".

JD 1992 :

You may also want to file a complaint with both the FTC and the FCC about Sprint's actions.

JD 1992 :

Also, cell phone providers rank only slightly above politicians, car salesman and, unfortunately, attorneys, in the way they are perceived by most people so you start into a case knowing that they have to overcome a built in bias against them with a jury.

JD 1992 :

The website is showing you are offline so I will exit so I can assist other customers. Please feel free to ask any follow up questions that you have in this thread. However, please do not issue a rating until our interaction is complete and all of your questions have been answered.

Customer: Okay. That makes sense. Seems like it would be a complete gamble on my part to pursue this then since it would depend on whether the changes to the verbiage would be determined to be materially altering to the terms or deemed as nothing more than clarifications to terms already existing in the agreement.
Customer: Since it is not a clear cut situation I don't think I will risk the expense and potential backfire of pursuing this through the court system. For me it was not about the money but rather the principle. I don't like knowing that Sprint is essentially free to change things like rate plans and arbitration language at their discretion. I know I would not be free to alter arbitration language in the contract or make any changes whatsoever to the terms, even ones that are for "clarification". In any case, I appreciate your response and have reported my situation to the FTC. I suspect nothing will come of it but I believe this is probably the most I can do without just wasting time, money, and potentially having the threat of a counter suit by Sprint.
Customer: What kills me is that I expect this is just what the cell phone companies count on and is the reason why they continue to get away with providing unreliable services and in my case changing the rules and then hold customers hostages with early termination fees if they want out of the arrangement as a result of those occurrences. It certainly seems like a setup that is poised for abusing the customer.
Dwayne B., Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 27091
Experience: Practicing for over 20 years and handled many cases and trials for consumers.
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