In the state of Illinois, when a returnable rebate, such as a mail-in or prepaid card-based one, is offered on a product, it becomes unclaimed property if a qualifying customer does not claim it within 5 years. Unclaimed property must go to either the state or county treasurer so that its rightful owner can claim it whenever they realize they're entitled to it, or the office can contact them to get it to them. A recent audit revealed to the offices of Treasurer Michael Frerichs that Sprint still owed unpaid rebates to 32,000 customers. In the ensuing courtroom scuffle with Sprint and rebate clearing house Young America, the Treasurer's office eventually ended up settling out of court. This, of course, is only the latest bit of courtroom drama for Sprint, who recently settled a class action lawsuit, and a lawsuit in a New York court.
A statement from the Treasurer's office weighing in on the ordeal said that rebates are often used to influence a customer's purchasing decisions, but when it comes time to claim the rebate, some customers forget, while others have such a hard time with the process that they give up. Yet others end up moving or otherwise being unavailable, and miss the check, or end up not cashing it for whatever reason. The rebates were allegedly offered between 2003 and 2008 on Sprint products and services. Frerichs, in the official statement, said that rebates can end up being "a dizzying maze" that stands between a customer and the payment that they were promised. Whatever parts of the process may have resulted in customers not getting what they were entitled to, a sum in the millions, with money due to 32,000 customers, is nothing to scoff at.
With the settlement out of the way, the Treasurer's office will soon have the money on hand so they can begin seeking the people that it is owed to and letting them know how to claim it. Sprint ended up settling out of court for $2.3 million, despite initial allegations putting the amount that they owed at about $2.7 million. While this means that customers will end up getting a bit less than they're technically entitled to, it's certainly better than nothing. Sprint's Vice President, Dave Tovar, said that the company is glad to have the issue behind them, and that they are proud to serve the residents of Illinois. Once Sprint hands over the cash and the list of names entitled to it, those names will go on the online unclaimed property search on the treasurer's website.