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Kevin Hunt - The Bottom Line
The Bottom Line
December 7, 2013
Paul Pernal has lived in the same Wallingford apartment for 10 years. For the past four years he has used Sprint Nextel wireless without incident until late August when his cellphone suddenly lost service each day when he returned from his job in Cheshire.
He brought his HTC Evo (Android) phone to a Sprint store in Meriden, found out it was out of date, and upgraded to an iPhone 5 with a new two-year contract.
When he returned home, the iPhone lost service, too.
"I stood outside, across the street and it didn't work," he says.
For three straight days in early September, he says, he called Sprint to explain the problem.
"Sprint consistently said the cell service is fine in the area I live, that it must be something else," says Pernal.
Sprint never told Pernal about the actual cause of service disruption in his area — an osprey nest on top of a 220-foot cellphone tower in a parking lot on North Plains Industrial Road in Wallingford. Osprey, large hawks with wingspans up to 6 feet, are usually found on the shoreline or along lakes and rivers, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Osprey, also known as fish hawks, are protected by both state and federal law. The nesting birds could stay in the tower until they were ready to migrate south.
"Osprey nests can be removed with little fanfare outside of nesting season, which is roughly late April through August," says Dwayne Gardner, a DEEP spokesman. "They can even be removed during the nesting season under special circumstances . . . if the United States Fish and Wildlife Service gives permission and DEEP is notified."
So the humans down below remained inconvenienced. Pernal, even more confused, returned the new iPhone soon enough to avoid an early-termination fee, but he was charged a $35 restocking fee and a $38 activation fee — for the phone that didn't work around his home.
"I called Sprint," says Pernal, "and talked for an hour trying to get my $38 and $35 fees reversed because I upgraded based on them saying I had to, otherwise I wouldn't have cell service. The restock fee should be waived because the phone still didn't work. They refused."
Meanwhile, Pernal enlisted Verizon Wireless as his new service provider and left with an iPhone 5 that, he says, "works fine."
Sprint eventually said it would refund the activation fee but the restocking fee would remain.
"They should not be allowed to charge me for a product they sell that didn't work," he says.
No, they shouldn't. But they did.
The osprey nest, says Sprint spokeswoman Kelly Schlageter, was removed the first week of October after the birds migrated.
"The tower crew was able to climb the tower and replace the faulty equipment," she says.
Pernal, meanwhile, was still looking for a little consumer protection after Sprint told him his phone didn't work because it was out of date, encouraged him to upgrade, then charged a restocking fee when the upgrade also didn't work.
"Because of our customer privacy policies," says Schlageter, "we don't disclose the particulars of individual customer accounts, billing or charges. The information you have sounds typical, though."
"That," says Pernal, "is wrong."
Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant