Cell phone companies are all about talking. But these days the talk from cell phone users has Sprint Nextel in trouble with the state of Minnesota.
"I'm livid on the way they've handled this," says Dave Peterson, one of several Sprint Nextel customers who addressed reporters Thursday at a capitol news conference. "I'd like to give their CEO a big kick right in the patootie."
Responding to "hundreds" of consumer complaints, Attorney General Lori Swanson has filed suit against Sprint Nextel for what she calls a violation of Minnesota's consumer protection laws.
Swanson accuses the company of using "hidden trip wires" to extend the contracts of unwitting wireless customers.
"By adding or decreasing minutes, adding a phone or adding a new family member to a contract," Swanson says Sprint Nextel locked customers into extended contracts for up to two years.
Along with those extended contracts, according to Swanson, have come excessive termination fees.
"Four phones and $200 early termination fee for each one adds up to $800," says Peterson about his own Sprint Nextel contract extension. "They've treated us extremely poorly."
In a prepared statement, Sprint Nextel Public Affairs Manager John Taylor insisted his company’s customers are protected. "We strive for openness and transparency in all our business practices, including our contracts for service."
Swanson says other cell phone companies might also be sued, pointing to Better Business Bureau statistics that show cell phone companies bring in more complaints than any other industry.
Minnesota's lawsuit seeks civil penalties, restitution for customers and a court order enjoining Sprint Nextel from further violations.
(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)