Sprint: "It’s our policy" to break the law
Every now and again, I get a reminder of why I want to be a plaintiff's lawyer. This morning, my mother called to let me know she's canceling our Sprint cell phone plan. We're on a family plan with 4 lines. We've been customers for a little over seven years, and have never had any disputes or late payments. But last month, my parents happened to look through their Sprint bill and discovered something interesting. For the last 3 and a half years, Sprint has been charging us about $6 bucks a month in Texas state and local taxes. The problem is that none of us have lived in Texas for 3 and a half years... and Sprint has also been charging Nevada state and and local taxes. Obviously, that's about $250.00 that we shouldn't have paid Sprint.
Needless to say, we disputed that with Sprint and asked for a credit. It's taken about a week of telephone tag, but we finally heard back from Sprint. They're only willing to refund the past three month's worth of illegal taxes because it took so long for my parents to discover their error. That's just "their policy."
Why is it that it's OK for a big corporation to have a policy of ripping off consumers, but it's horrible for consumers to rip off big corporations? What do you think would happen if we underpaid Sprint $6 bucks a month for three years, and when caught told Sprint that we'd only refund them three month's worth because it took them so long to catch our error? I imagine they'd use the oppressive credit reporting system to blackmail us into paying.
The odds are that this will probably end up in court because Sprint plans on charging $800 in early cancellation fees, when they clearly breached their contract. Let's be honest - it will be ridiculous to go to court over this. But what's the alternative? Letting Sprint overcharge us because it's too costly to go to court? To hell with that. I once spent $160 in filing costs over an $18 overcharge that a notoriously corrupt company refused to correct for me. It took three months, but they settled and gave me my $18 and my filing costs. Again, a ridiculous lawsuit. But I'll be damned if I was going to let someone steal twenty bucks for me.
I was fortunate enough to be able to file that suit myself. And my family is fortunate enough that my father is an attorney, so he'll be able to handle any legal matters himself. But the millions of consumers out there who get ripped off and aren't attorneys don't fare as well. No lawyer will touch cases like these on a contingency basis because the dollar amount is so small, and no rational consumer will spend $1,500+ to hire an attorney to recover my $20 or my parents' $250.
Meanwhile, as consumers across the country are ripped off to the tune of millions - perhaps even billions - of dollars a year, corporate America has convinced us that "frivolous lawsuits" are a drain on the economy and that we need to make it harder to sue them. Too bad no one wants to make it harder for corporations to rip us off, eh?