Sprint quietly changed its in-store activations policies, lowering prices and charging customers at the point of sale rather than billing them later for the initial fees.
The nation's fourth-largest carrier reduced its activation fees from $36 to $30 per line regardless of whether customers buy subsidized phones, purchase through an installment plan or lease the devices, Wave7 Research reported this week. Only two activation fees are charged per account per day, so new customers activating six lines pay only $60.
Sprint also began charging customers at the point of sale rather than billing for the fees on users' first monthly statements. A spokesperson for the carrier confirmed the changes, noting that they apply "only to Sprint retail stores and dealer locations."
Wave7 reported that the latter move was likely a response to customer complaints of "sticker shock" when customers saw activation charges in addition to regular service fees on their bills.
"Wave7 Research agrees that this effort may be a step toward addressing Sprint's reputation for 'nickel and diming' customers while charging low headline pricing," the firm said. "However, this change is likely to be negative in terms of profitability. Sprint does provide select exemptions from activation changes, including some credit union members and certain business customers."
The carrier made the changes within the last two weeks, Wave7 said.
The news comes on the heels of T-Mobile's move to hike the price of its SIM Starter Kits from $15 to $20 for both prepaid and postpaid devices. The fees, as Wave7 noted, are often referred to as activation charges by sales personnel.
"Wave7 Research is positive on this move, as activation charges are not major factors for carrier choice, so the extra $5 per activation will mostly go to T-Mobile's bottom line," the firm said.
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