Getting a better deal from your cable provider
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Getting a better deal from your cable provider

Despite spending an average of US$1,848 annually on in-home telecom services, consumers aren't convinced it's money well spent.  The latest subscriber survey on telecom providers from the Consumer Reports National Research Center found almost universally low ratings for value across services — especially for TV and Internet.

Those who bundled the services for a discount still seemed unimpressed with what they were getting for the money. Even top-rated regional provider WOW and nationally-distributed Verizon FiOS, which both got high marks for service satisfaction, rated middling or lower for value.

"Our latest report on telecom services revealed that very few consumers think they're getting a great deal, in part because of soaring prices and confusing bills," says Glenn Derene, Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports. "But the last thing consumers should do is be passive. Even though some companies are cracking down on serial negotiators, there's really no downside to haggling."

The full report on in-home telecom services can be found in the May issue of Consumer Reports and online at ConsumerReports.org.   Based on the experiences of 81,848 Consumer Reports readers, it features tips and advice to help consumers save money on their telecom services and select the best providers.

Verizon FiOS was the top national provider in overall customer satisfaction among bundled (Internet, TV, phone) telecom service providers, according to the survey.  But while Verizon stood out for service satisfaction and received the highest ratings for reliability across all three services, its subscribers had more billing complaints than average.

WOW, a regional cable company, was the overall top-scoring bundled telecom provider. It also received high marks for all services. SuddenLink and Bright House Networks were other regional companies that received higher-than-most satisfaction scores for bundles.

A positive finding from the survey was that consumers of telecommunications services are becoming more savvy negotiators.  Ninety-two percent of respondents who attempted to negotiate a better bundle package got some sort of deal. Among the hagglers, 46% said their provider dropped their price by as much as $50 per month, 44% got a new or extended promotional rate, 33%received additional channels, and 16% got discounted or free equipment.

Companies have been talking tough about cracking down on serial negotiators, but there's no good reason not to haggle. Here are Consumer Reports' tips on how to do it right:

° Ask for a better deal. It might sound obvious, but the first step is to call customer service and say your bill is too high.
° Fight price hikes. Even if your promotion has expired, ask whether you qualify for a new one. Forty-three percent of Consumer Reports subscribers in that situation negotiated a new discount.

° Check out the competition. If your requests fall on deaf ears, see what other local providers are offering new customers, then ask your current provider to match it.

° Threaten to disconnect. Still no luck? Call to say you're planning to cancel your service because it costs too much.

° Be ready to walk. At some point, you may have to switch if you can't get what you want.

The Consumer Reports telecom services report features Ratings of bundles from 14 providers, along with individual phone, TV, and Internet services from several more providers. The full report can be found in the May issue of Consumer Reports, and online at ConsumerReports.org.

 
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