Looks like leasing can come with a headache or two – for the carrier, that is.
Sprint recently posted an advisory reminding its customers that their leased devices are not eligible as trade-ins with other carriers.
In the notice, Sprint likened leased smartphones to leased cars, which must be returned to the dealer at the end of the lease term.
Sprint said the submission of a leased device as a trade-in can generate fees for the consumer in addition to an increased cost of service and delays as the carriers work out ownership of the phone.
“While mobile phone users have a right to change to whichever wireless carrier is best for them, some users are inadvertently turning in leased devices to their new provider, even though they don’t actually own the devices,” Sprint wrote. “Sprint respects the right of its customers to switch carriers, but we want them to make informed decisions.”
As a result, Sprint said starting this week it will be sending text notices to lease customers who are looking to switch carriers. According to Sprint, the messages will read: “NOTICE-Sprint is processing your number porting request. Per your lease, return the device to Sprint or pay the full balance before selling or trading.”
Sprint first introduced device leasing in 2014 to capitalize on demand for the iPhone 6, and has since expanded the program to include select high-end iOS and Android devices.
The carrier’s troubles serve to reinforce the position of Verizon, which has pointedly avoided device leasing. In February, Verizon executive vice president of Wireless Operations David Small said the company has no plans to introduce its own device leasing program.
At the time, Small said one of the problems with leasing is that customers who sign up “don’t exactly understand” the program. Small said leasing also leave customers without ownership of a new device at the end of the lease term, a fact he said Verizon expects to become apparent to disgruntled consumers as lease terms expire.
“I think we’re going to see a little blowback from customers who don’t know what the arrangement is,” Small said in February. “We’re going to watch it carefully and if we see a strong demand from consumers, then that’s something we’ll evaluate.”