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Sprint defends axing customers

Firm cites volume of help-line calls

One thousand subscribers terminated by Sprint called customer service 40 to 50 times a month. One thousand subscribers terminated by Sprint called customer service 40 to 50 times a month. (WINSLOW TOWNSON/ASSOCIATED PRESS/FILE 2004)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sprint Nextel Corp. isn't apologizing for its decision to ax customers it determined were calling customer service too often.

The nation's third-largest wireless provider sent letters to about 1,000 subscribers June 29, saying they had made frequent calls for help.

"While we have worked to resolve your issues and questions to the best of our ability, the number of inquiries you have made to us during this time had led us to determine that we are unable to meet your current wireless needs," the letters said.

The customers were told their service agreements were terminated; they wouldn't owe anything on the final bill; and the company would waive termination fees. They must switch to another wireless provider by July 30 to keep their current phone numbers.

In debate on the Internet, Sprint has attracted criticism that it's penalizing consumers for trying to get what they paid for, or that the frequent calls reflect poor service by Sprint itself.

"These accounts have been researched very carefully," Sprint spokeswoman Roni Singleton said. "We feel strongly that the decisions we made, we stand by them. These decisions weren't made lightly." Singleton said the targeted subscribers each made 40 to 50 calls a month to customer service.

Singleton said the review also found that the subscribers often were calling about the same problems over and over after Sprint officials felt they had resolved the issue. She said some callers were repeatedly asking for information from other customers' accounts, which customer service workers aren't allowed to divulge.

Officials at competitors AT&T Wireless and Verizon Wireless said that while they may terminate customers who are abusive toward customer service operators or violate other terms of their service agreements, they don't terminate customers because of service calls.

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