*Horrible* service from Sprint; receive text messages, risk getting signed up for additional billing.

Posted on October 31st, 2009 — permalink

I noticed on my Sprint cellphone bill that there was an additional $10/month charge for some mobile alert thingy. I believe it’s been there for a few months. This happened before, a year or so ago, and it lingered then; a different thing.

I called the Sprint service folks to get this removed and figure out what happened. Well, it turns out that if you receive a text message from one of these services, and you open it up, you might automatically get signed up for the service. Yes! That’s just ridiculous. I asked if that could be blocked, and the guy told me he could block all text messages. It turns out that there is no way to receive text messages without risking being signed up for random third party services just by opening that text message. He tried to disclaim any responsibility for Sprint for this, because it’s a third party, but of course Sprint is doing the billing for it (and I’m sure Sprint gets some cut for doing the billing). It’s just crazy that Sprint isn’t able to block this kind of crap without blocking out all text messages.

My wife and I hardly ever use text messages; our plan doesn’t even include any free ones, as we only send a couple a month. Now, we’ll be sending (and receiving) none….

This may be enough to make me eat the $400 fee it will take to terminate my Sprint service early, if I figure out that there’s another cellphone service provider that doesn’t have something stupid like this. Sprint did refund me for the last three months of billing for this service; I’ll give them that much. But a service that lets you receive text messages which can get you signed up for additional billing just by opening that text message is an insecure service; I don’t care how helpful any given customer service representative is, that’s a broken company and a broken service.

ADDENDUM: Can you tell I don’t use text messaging much? So there is this thing called “Premium Text Messaging”, which is the cellphone equivalent of 1-900 numbers. Some legit, probably, the vast majority probably scams like the one we had. It seems that some mobile providers can block just premium text messages without blocking all text messages (i.e. messages from your friends). I cannot figure out if you can do that with Sprint, as they’re very unclear on their website. The customer service guy I talked to certainly wasn’t clear; he said he was blocking all text messages. When I asked if there was a way to avoid getting signed up for services without having to block all text messages, he said no. That implies to me, in retrospect, that there’s no way to block all premium text messages without blocking text messages altogether; you’d think he’d have said something about it when I asked that question. My next task will be to figure out which companies are able to block all premium SMS without blocking all SMS.

2 Responses to “*Horrible* service from Sprint; receive text messages, risk getting signed up for additional billing.”

  1. Kevin Fairchild Says:

    We just this week switched from Sprint to Verizon, for different reasons, but we had to eat some $$$ to get out of the contract. It’s amazing to me that Sprint has any customers left at all; they were just terrible with us.

  2. Brandon Says:

    AT&T has been absolutely stellar. Good coverage, relatively good prices, and you can use their phones out of the country. I wouldn’t drop your contract, though. Screw principles, you’re gonna pay $400 to avoid a $10/month surprise?