Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) is shortening its handset return period from 30 days to 14 days and is also canceling its "Premier" rewards program. The changes are notable in light of the multiple reports indicating that the carrier will launch Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iPhone next month.
Sprint confirmed that the return period, in which customers can try handsets and Sprint service and then return the products and cancel their contract without incurring an Early Termination Fee, will be shortened to two weeks and applies to new lines of services, accessories and upgrades. The company said it is making the changes to be in line with its competitors, including Verizon (NYS: VZ) Wireless. Sprint is also dropping its "Free Guarantee" program, which offered customers the ability to try Sprint with no risk of being charged during a trial period. Now, during the trial, customers will have to pay for the service they use during the trial. Both of the changes went into effect Friday.
In addition to the return policy changes, Sprint also said it is phasing out its Premier program, which was divided earlier this year into a "Gold tier" program and a "Silver tier." A chief benefit of the program's Gold Tier was that subscribers could upgrade their handset, at the fully subsidized price, after 12 months of service, a program called "New For You."
"In order to continue offering customers one of the best values of affordable unlimited data plans in the industry today, cutting-edge devices at great prices and our ongoing investment in providing great customer service, we had to make the difficult decision that it's necessary to bring the Sprint Premier Program to a close at this time," Melinda Parks, director of marketing at Sprint, said in a blog post.
Sprint said customers will no longer be enrolled into the program or move between Gold and Silver tier status. Gold customers who aren't already eligible under the "New For You" program have until the end of 2012 to take advantage of their last annual upgrade.
All of these changes come just weeks after Sprint confirmed that it joined Verizon and AT&T (NYS: T) Mobility in raising its ETF to $350 for smartphones, tablets, notebooks and netbooks. That change went into effect Sept. 9.
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