Sprint customers who have linked their Google Voice account with their smartphones are experiencing some unexpected overage fees, according to the help forums for both companies.
Google Voice, the search engine's free call management service, lets users associate calls and text messages made to any phone with a special number.
Google and partner Sprint cut a deal in March to let Google Voice users associate their numbers with Sprint phones so that subscribers can receive Google Voice calls.
This deal, which was formally activated earlier this month, was a somewhat surprising move on Sprint's part, considering that the country's four top carriers feared Google Voice would render them as simply dumb pipes carrying data.
Sprint lets users choose to make calls either with the caller ID showing their Sprint phone number or their Google Voice number. The second option is giving people fits.
ZDNet noted that Sprint and Google Voice users reported that when they chose to show Google Voice as their outgoing number to other Sprint mobile subscribers they call, the recipients are being whacked with overage charges.
One Sprint/Google Voice user noted on the Google Voice help forum:
"When I call other Sprint customers (for example, my family) the call is still free for me (it's considered mobile-to-mobile) but for them, it's a landline call. This quickly eats into the allowance they have for Anytime minutes. Obviously, I understand why this is happening, but Sprint needed to fix this before the switch happened, because I am already having to deal with overage charges."
The problem is that Google Voice numbers are treated as landlines by the national number database, so it doesn't matter if the Google Voice call originated from a Sprint smartphone.
The Sprint caller doesn't get punished for this because he or she gets free mobile minutes for these calls. However, Sprint, which leverages the national database to find if a number is a landline or mobile, counts the phone as a landline.
None other than Google Voice co-founder Vincent Paquet confirmed this issue in the forum, noting that the calls don't count as free mobile-to-mobile calls for recipients. In other words, they get charged.
Sprint said there is no current mechanism or timetable to alter this practice: "Sorry to disappoint but I'm told that there are no plans to change this for option 2."
The spokesperson added that this is a reason for Sprint customers to continue to use their Sprint wireless number as their primary number, also known as "option 1" in the Sprint-Google Voice integration.