New York's lead consumer advocate is asking Sprint Nextel Corp. to pay a penalty to wireless customers it is terminating because they called customer service too often.
Reacting to news that Sprint has told about 1,000 customers they will lose their wireless service on July 30, the New York State Consumer Protection Board suggested the carrier pay those customers $200 each - the amount the customers would have had to pay if they had prematurely ended their two-year contracts with the company.
The Reston, Va.-based company, with operational headquarters in Overland Park, Kan., said it will zero out the customers' accounts and not charge any termination fees. But Mindy Bockstein, the board's chairwoman and executive director, said that's not enough.
"These former Sprint customers will have to purchase new phones and incur other expenses and inconveniences if they want to continue receiving wireless service," Bockstein said. "Sprint Nextel (nyse: S - news - people ) should do more to improve the quality of its customer service and this is a good place to start."
It's not known how many of the roughly 1,000 customers flagged by the wireless carrier for termination live in New York.
Sprint Nextel spokeswoman Roni Singleton said she had not seen the request from the New York agency and couldn't immediately comment.
Bockstein said her agency would send a letter to Sprint Nextel formally requesting the payments. If the company refuses, she said her board may take the issue to state lawmakers.
Bockstein said the Legislature has considered a wireless customer bill of rights that would place additional requirements on roaming fees, cancellation policies and other terms of service.
Sprint Nextel, the nation's third-largest wireless provider with 53 million customers, mailed out letters June 29 telling the customers that their frequent calling to customer service led the company to believe they would be better off with another carrier.
The company said an internal review over the past year identified customers who called an average of 40 to 50 times a month with questions about billing and other terms of their service. They said the repeated calls were interfering with the company's ability to serve other customers.