My opinion: Carriers should waive ETFs for domestic violence victims
An interesting email appeared in my inbox the other day. I received a Change.org petition about a woman who was in a domestic violence situation. Her breaking point came when she was laying on the bed, her four month old infant next to her, and her partner began to strangle her, threatening to crush her skull with his steel-toed boots.
She finally left the next day, and got a restraining order.
But she also had a Sprint family plan with her abuser, who subsequently had access to her phone records, and could use them to track her. When she tried to cancel his line, Sprint told her that she would have to pay an ETF of $200 – even though she had a restraining order against her abuser, even though she had no income, even though she had no steady shelter, and even though she had a four month old infant to support. In essence, Sprint wanted to charge $200 for her safety.
Sprint says that it can cancel contracts with no ETF if it breaks its end of the bargain, or if you join the military and move to a place without native coverage. It can also waive ETFs if you die.
Unofficially, Sprint has also been known to waive ETFs if you move to an area with poor coverage, or if you call in and complain enough. There are also many documented cases in which Sprint will cancel your agreement if you force your phone to roam all of the time, thereby costing Sprint more money than you’re worth to keep you as a customer.
In other words, Sprint will waive your ETF if you’re annoying enough, expensive enough, or if you can pull off some fraud. Sprint will also waive the ETF if you die.
It won’t waive ETFs to help protect your life, however. Sprint won’t even offer any other ways to help you if you are being abused, and your abuser is tracking you with your phone records. It seems that Sprint won’t waive that ETF unless your abuser kills you.
And that is wrong.
I’m not trying to be sensationalist here, but the situation in which this woman found herself is appalling, and the only thing that’s more shocking is Sprint’s unwillingness to work with her, which directly put her and her child in harm’s way. Sprint didn’t even offer a way to keep the abuser from tracking her.
What’s worse, Sprint has added insult to injury by forcing the victim to relive her abuse every time she opens a collections letter or receives a phone call from a bill collector, all due to a $200 fee that Sprint should have waived in the first place. As the original petition writer said, “Nobody should have to pay for safety when escaping an abuser.”
I believe that cell phone carriers should add clauses about waiving the ETF in cases of domestic violence, especially when the life of the victim and the children could be in danger. Sprint should “update their policies to make sure they are helping to keep domestic violence victims safe – not punish them. Sprint has all sorts of programs to promote family safety, but when my family was unsafe, they refused to help.”
In an increasingly competitive marketplace, Sprint has a chance to rise above the others and show us what kind of company it really is. Or, I guess, it could also just be business as usual. I just hope the top execs at Sprint take notice, and do the right thing.[Change.org]