Category Archives: Information

Wireless Carrier Survey

Verizon Wireless was the big winner of the annual wireless consumer survey. The big loser was AT&T. AT&T got hammered in just about every category, from voice services to the frequency of dropped calls. That is not a good thing for exclusive iPhone carrier.

The survey covered 26 cities. The results are as follows:

  1. Verizon
  2. T-Mobile
  3. Sprint
  4. AT&T

AT&T’s worst marks in the Consumer Reports came in such categories as “service availability,” “circuit capacity,” “dropped-call frequency,” and “voice service.”

Federal Trade Commission

Telephone companies are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FCC). So if you have a telephone bill or a cell phone bill that you can’t get resolved with your carrier, consider filing a complaint with the FCC.

It may not seem like a big deal but filing a complaint with the FCC can have a huge impact. It onlys the FCC to spot company wide problems and help you resolve your issue. Telephone companies hate seeing unresolved complaints filed with the FCC. The FCC will contact them and make them explain what happened and why the matter was not resolved.

As more and more people join in this practice, the power in numbers takes over. Believe it or not the system can work for you.

Collect Calls

Collect calls from a pay phone could cost you a fortune. In today’s time, it hard to imagine anyone without a cell phone. However, there could be a time when your cell phone battery runs out and you need to make an emergency collect call.

One day, a Northridge lady was running late at her hair salon. Her cellphone had died. So she made a collect call to her home, from a pay phone, about 3 miles from home. She had no choice because the pay phone ate up her quarters. So she dialed zero and the operator came on to assist her make her collect call.

When her husband received the call, he immediately accepted the collect call request knowing it was his wife. The call lasted roughly three minutes. Then when the AT&T bill arrived, it included a charge for $45.09 from something called NCIC. NCIC is the Network Communication International Corp., a Texas company that says its the largest private held provide of collect call services for pay phones, prisons, hospitals and hotels.

According to the phone bill, NCIC charged her $37.40 for the brief, in-the-neighborhood collect call, $4.74 in regulatory fees and taxes, and an extra $2.95 just for the hell of it (the bill calls this NCIC’s “billing cost recovery fee”).

The couple were appalled when they saw the $45 charge. But is it legal?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes.

“Pay phones are largely unregulated,” said Rosemary Kimball, a spokeswoman for the Federal Communications Commission. “They were deregulated in 1996.”

An NCIC customer-service supervisor said the call consisted of a nearly $25 “connection charge” and a rate of about $2.50 per minute.

NCIC provides collect-call services on behalf of whoever owns a particular pay phone and typically kicks back more than half the proceeds to the owner. It’s thus in both NCIC’s and the phone owner’s interest for the charge to be as high as possible.

In this case, our victim called NCIC and when she complained about being charged $45 for a local call, the service representative immediately dropped about $20 from the total.

Text Messaging Charges Surprise

Cell phone customer are frequently shocked when their first bill arrives and it is hundreds of dollars more than expected. It is usually the parents who are have their kids on their plans that are the most surprised.

The standard cell phone plan has a few hundred “anytime minutes” and free night and weekend minutes for $30 to $50. These plans do not usually include text messaging or internet access. Chances are they don’t push you to buy these additional luxuries because you get them anyways.

For example, if you didn’t add the text message option to your plan, you will still be charge for each text message that you sent and received – even if you didn’t read the message. That also includes text messages from your carrier. You usually get charged for that as well.

Or what about when your son browses the Internet and download a ringtone to their cell phone. You get charge for that as well.

And its all in the fine print of those nice agreements that they ask you to sign while you are too busy checking out your new phone. So if you don’t want to get these nice surprise make sure you call the cell phone company and tell them to turn off all text messaging and Internet access on your Cell phones. This will help you avoid getting some nasty unexpected phone bills.

Cellphone Usuage Data

Accordingly to the CTIA, an organziation that represents the wireless industry, based on data compiled in the last 6 months:

  • The average cell phone bill in June 2009 was $49.57, up more than a buck from June 2008;
  • The average length of a voice call was just 2.03 minutes, shorter than any other year since the CTIA started keeping records in 1988;
  • There are about 276,610,580 wireless subscribers in the U.S., up about 14 million from last year, and more than double the number in 2002;
  • The various wireless carriers (or at least the ones who reported figures to the CTIA) raked in $151.2 billion in revenue from June 2009 to June 2008

US Businesses Are Overcharged

Even though most companies would list the phone bill as one of their top expenses, few take the time to have someone look over the bill for errors. A study found that 80 percent of U.S. businesses have errors on their phone bills that are never found or reported.

The problem comes from the long-standing system phone companies use to track their services and billing. The system is split into two sections: The section that keeps track of what services a customer has, and the section that bills the customers. “The process itself is inherently faulty,” says professional Frank Stoczko. “It’s quite often the case that there’s faulty entry between the two systems, which results in faulty billing.” Stoczko says a customer may get a feature (such as caller ID) and then cancel it, but the phone company may only cancel it from the service section of the billing system. Then, customers are being charged for a service they no longer have.

According to Stoczko, billing errors have been occurring since the dawn of telecommunications, and certain phone providers can be almost relied on to make trademark mistakes. “As soon as I see who the telephone company [on the bill] is, I look for those specific things, because, invariably, those kinds of errors are repetitive; they happen quite often,” he said.

Without actually stating that phone companies make these erroneous charges on purpose, Stoczko does point out that it is in the phone companies’ interest to allow these mistakes to be made. ” [Telecoms] will just let mistakes go and wait for clients to come back and ask for a refund for that money,” he said. “They will pay them that money, while the other customers’ [overcharges] will just be pocketed.”

However, some of the phone companies overcharge through legitimate services that are not really necessary. One such service is an insurance premium for in-house wiring that some companies charge a flat fee for (maybe $4 or $5 a month). Stoczko says it is a good idea to get rid of services like this, because it is a service that probably won’t ever see use. “[Consumers] pay for the insurance for the entire time they have telephone service