Verbal sales promises - get it in writing

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A viewer called 12 about what he feels was a deceptive sales tactic by a major cell phone company. We investigated and discovered why you should always read the fine print.

Robbie Llewellyn has been with Sprint for 8 years. He says the last few months have been a headache.

"You are dealing with a big company and somebody from sales is telling you one thing to get you to sign up, and then when you sign up and they don't want to honor it. You feel kind of like David versus Goliath going after a big company like that," he said.

Llewellyn claims Sprint will no longer honor a 10 percent discount a sales person promised over the phone. One bill reflected the discount - after that, he says it was a back and forth phone game trying to get what was promised. Eventually he was told to check the invoice. Sprint said it sent a notification alerting him it discontinued the discount.

"We had a verbal contract and they are trying to use a monthly invoice to change a verbal contract. I feel like they have to honor it and they are saying they can put something in a monthly statement and change your contract and if you don't see it then that is too bad for you," Llewellyn said.

Llewellyn called 12 and wanted some help. Armed with his documentation we contacted Sprint to see what we could do to try and solve the problem.

Due to privacy issues, Sprint would not comment on the case. A company rep directed us to the terms and conditions section of its website. We read it -- basically, Sprint has the right to change any part of the agreement at any time. You have the power to terminate the contract without any fees, but read the fine print -- you have to follow the company's instructions.

Here is what Sprint sent to us. "Our Right To Change The Agreement & Your Related Rights. We may change any part of the Agreement at any time, including, but not limited to, rates, charges, how we calculate charges, or your terms of Service. We will provide you notice of material changes, and may provide you notice of non-material changes, in a manner consistent with this Agreement (see "Providing Notice To Each Other Under The Agreement" section). If a change we make to the Agreement is material and has a material adverse effect on Services under your Term Commitment, you may terminate each line of Service materially affected without incurring an Early Termination Fee only if you: (a) call us within 30 days after the effective date of the change; and (b) specifically advise us that you wish to cancel Services because of a material change to the Agreement that we have made. If you do not cancel Service within 30 days of the change, an Early Termination Fee will apply if you terminate Services before the end of any applicable Term Commitment."

A spokesperson says, "Sprint cannot comment on a specific customer issue, but generally, Sprint's policy is to notify customers of material changes via invoice inserts, giving customers as much time as possible to accommodate the change and/or make alternate plans."

Tom Gallagher, with the Better Business Bureau says this can happen with any company. The best way to protect yourself is to get everything in writing.

"Why do I want to believe somebody else? Put it in writing, make sure that I understand it. Don't get caught up in the romance of the moment which is the new phone that will make coffee for you," Gallagher said.

Llewellyn says he understands the concept, but still feels deceived.

"I don't want to leave Sprint but this very aggravating. I feel like I shouldn't have to be a legal expert to do business with any corporation. I just want to be treated fairly," he said.

For Llewellyn it's a lesson learned. In the future he'll get all verbal promises in writing.

If you would like to read more of Sprints Terms and Conditions, click here.

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