The Sprint/T-Mobile merger has been riddled with obstacles since the official announcement was made in April. From back and forth discussions dating all the way to 2017, to the DOJ's antitrust division pushing back on the original proposal, to regulators demanding the companies spin off into a fourth carrier, this week adds one more barrier between the two joining forces, and Sprint is the one to blame.
According to a statement released by Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, Sprint allegedly misused funds for approximately 30 percent of its Lifeline customers, a program designed to help low-income households afford phone and broadband service through subsidization. In his statement, Starks writes:
"The draft order relies heavily on information submitted by Sprint, a company alleged to have over-collected Lifeline support, and inaccurately accounted for nearly 1 million inactive Lifeline accounts...There is no credible way that the merger before us can proceed until this Lifeline investigation is resolved and responsible parties are held accountable."
Even if the merger is allowed to proceed after the Sprint Lifeline investigation comes to a close, there are still other high-profile investigations involving Sprint and T-Mobile that could bring the deal to an indefinite halt. These allegations include unlawful disclosure of wireless customer geolocation information, as well as submitting inaccurate signal coverage to bolster the perception of reliability.