A Sprint customer recently created a website called Explain the Fee that is dedicated to seeking specific answers from Sprint regarding a new fee that they have implemented today, June 4, 2010, levied solely on owners of their latest phone, the HTC EVO 4G.
Sprint sells the HTC EVO 4G phone unsubsidized for $450 but also requires the owner to purchase a mandatory $10 month add-on called "Premium Data." The blogger has contacted Sprint several times of over the last week, including emailing their CEO's mailbox ([email protected]), reached out to John Taylor (spokesman for Sprint Nextel on Public Policy), and most recently Sprint's Communication Manager of Marketing Public Relations, Emmy Anderson contacted the website.
The blogger is simply seeking an answer to what should be a simple question: "Can you explain the fee?"
To date, Sprint employees have been told to state that the fee is for "Premium Data" but explicitly they deny that it is for 4G coverage, which the vast majority of the nation does not, and will not have access to in the near future. Instead, Sprint employees have stated that this fee is related to the phone's "enhanced features" and not their "data network". His readers have also sent numerous queries to Sprint and have been told repeatedly how the phone's hardware functions provide the "Premium Data Experience." Sprint employees have repeatedly stated that the fee for the "Premium Data" applies whether you are in a 3G or 4G network; it is a required fee for the hardware itself.
Since the website's creation, it has received overwhelming feedback from other Sprint customers, about how they've asked Sprint to explain the fee and how they also received similar illogical responses. The single theme of all Sprint responses is that the $10 fee has nothing to do with data caps or speedsâ€"but with hardware. This concerns consumers because they are being told, in effect, that they are being charged twice for hardwareâ€"once when they purchase the phone, and then monthly for as long as they have Sprint service.
The Sprint "HTC EVO 4G Playbook" was leaked on the Internet and poses "sample" questions that customer's might ask their sales people. One question in the playbook was "Why would someone in a 3G market buy an EVO 4G and pay for the $10 Premium Data?" This was answered with the following:
"The EVO offers an unparalleled experience on 3G as well as 4G. The combination of a 4.3 inch screen, built-in-kickstand, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, Android 2.1 and the hallmark HTC Sense experience makes HTC EVO 4G a best-in-class 3G phone. As 4G launches in additional markets, HTC EVO 4G will take a great 3G experience (and great apps created for 3G, especially those using video) and makes it even better on 4G.
The HTC EVO 4G provides capabilities never before available on a wireless device. The $10 Premium Data Add-on will ensure your customers receive a richer data experience and get the most out of their EVO (Not to mention customers get unlimited data on the Sprint network)."
As you can see, Sprint doesn't clearly explain anything. They are imposing a legally dubious recurring fee for already purchased hardware but calling it a "Data Add-on" that has nothing to do with data or the Sprint networks.
A recent post on Explain the Fee is titled "Just answer the questions." This is what the blogger wants Sprint to explain:
If the "Premium Data" charge is not for the 3G nor 4G network access and the charge is for the phone features why is it that all of the "Premium Data" features are listed as technical specifications of the HTC EVO 4G phone? If I were to take this phone to a non-Sprint area, such as the South Pole, would those "Premium Data" features work, such as the 4.3" screen, HD Camera/Camcorder, faster processor, and even kickstand? Would I be able to use these features in Airplane mode? If I can use those in a non-Sprint area or in Airplane mode, why must I pay $10 a month to use this "add-on" when I'm not using Sprint's data network? Can you please explain the fee?
With Sprint's HTC EVO 4G phone being released on Friday, there is a question that you must ask Sprint before you sign on the dotted line of your 2-year contract, "Can you explain the fee?"
For more information you can follow his tweets @explainthefee or on facebook.com/explainthefee.