Did Sprint break its “buyback” promise?

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By Christopher Elliott

Sprint offers Sarah Gagliardo a refund on her cell phone after she cancels her service. But now it’s refusing, saying she’s not a current customer. Can it do that?

Question

I need your help with Sprint’s buyback program, which lets you receive credit for your old cell phone. I recently had to cancel my Sprint account because I moved to an area where I didn’t get service.

When I canceled the contract, I agreed to pay a cancellation fee, but the rep on the phone said I could go through Sprint’s buyback program and receive a $177 credit for my phone directly on my account.

But when I went into a Sprint store to return it, a representative told me I had to mail it back for the credit to go to my account. I went to Sprint’s website and did an online chat, and I was told the credit would not go onto my account, but I would have a check written to me.

I sent the phone back, and now Sprint has denied me credit because my Sprint account is “inactive.” Can you help? — Sarah Gagliardo, Asheville, NC

Answer

The Sprint buyback program is open only to new and existing customers, which is something the agents you spoke with should have mentioned. It’s also disclosed on the company’s program terms on its website.

In other words, when you canceled your Sprint account, you wouldn’t have been eligible for any credits. You would pay the early termination fee and walk away. (Related: I need out of this Sprint customer service nightmare.)

But you were really smart about this case. You managed to get a chat transcript, which proves a Sprint representative gave you incorrect information. Whether you did that intentionally or because you were confused, it matters not. Point is, you had a paper trail. Good for you!

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The next step would have been to forward your paper trail to a Sprint executive. Here’s a list of Sprint brass. The email format is [email protected] or [email protected]. So, for example, its CEO, Daniel Hesse, would be [email protected]. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

But I think you’ve suffered enough. My advocacy team and I contacted Sprint on your behalf, and it agreed to refund $177 to your credit card.

Did Sprint break its "buyback" promise?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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