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August 8, 2016

Comcast’s Inside Wiring Plan Excludes Most Inside Wiring!

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone,Thanks for Nothing — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

One of the ways that telephone and cable companies try to make extra money is to pitch inside wiring plans to their customers. For about $5 a month, these plans typically promise to fix the cable or telephone wire in your home or apartment should it cause a problem with your service. Normally this would be the owner’s responsibility. Most consumer advocates say not to fall for the scare tactics and save your money because inside wiring rarely goes bad on its own.

Last week, the Washington state attorney general went one step further. He sued Comcast, a large purveyor of these inside wiring plans because of alleged deceptive tactics they used to sell these policies. The lawsuit accuses Comcast of misleading 500,000 Washington consumers and deceiving them into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over the last five years for a near-worthless “protection plan” without clearly disclosing its significant limitations.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Here is how Comcast promoted its plan before the Washington AG began investigating. (Here is how the plan it is currently presented.)

It says in part:

“Comcast offers a comprehensive Service Protection Plan (SPP), eliminating any concerns about being charged additional fees for service calls related to inside wiring. … Hassle-free replacement and repair of defective customer inside wiring.”

When one checked the fine print terms and conditions of the Service Protection Plan as originally promoted, the introductory paragraph even reiterates the promise:

“Inside wiring covered under this plan is owned by the customer or a third party and is defined as wiring that begins at the “Demarcation Point,” which begins 12 inches outside the customer’s residence and extends to the individual phone jacks, cable and Internet outlets and extensions in the home.”

Digging deeper into the terms however, reveals the truth (emphasis added below).

*MOUSE PRINT:

Comcast fine print

Maybe 90% of the wiring inside a home is behind walls, and it is excluded! Thanks for nothing, Comcast.

Things get worse, according to the WA-AG’s complaint.

[While] Comcast claimed the SPP covers all service calls related to customer-owned equipment, it does not cover any actual repairs relating to customer equipment. It simply covers the technician visiting the customer’s house and declaring that the customer’s equipment is broken.

Comcast also marketed the SPP as covering service calls relating to Comcast equipment and wiring outside a customer’s house. However, these issues are already covered for free by Comcast’s Customer Guarantee promises.

The Washington AG is seeking $100+ million in his lawsuit.

For its part, Comcast issued the following statement:

“The Service Protection Plan has given those Washington consumers who chose to purchase it great value by completely covering over 99 percent of their repair calls. We worked with the Attorney General’s office to address every issue they raised, and we made several improvements based on their input.”

Incidentally, it is believed that Comcast marketed its service protection plan the very same way nationally… so you probably have not heard the end of this yet.




• • •

September 21, 2015

Upgrade iPhone Yearly Forever for $15 a Month?

Filed under: Electronics,Retail,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

  To promote the launch of its “iPhone Forever” plan, Sprint is only charging $15 a month for the just introduced iPhone 6S along with the privilege that lets customers get a new iPhone every year. That is less than half the monthly cost for Apple’s own upgrade plan.

Sprint Forever

This means you are basically paying $180 a year to have the latest iPhone. For people who always must have the latest phone, this could be quite the deal … except for the fine print.

*MOUSE PRINT:

iPhone Forever terms

Besides learning that this is a 22-month lease and that you are responsible for [edited] insurance, what may have looked like a given to some — that you would only pay $15 a month and get annual upgrades forever — that monthly charge is only guaranteed for the first phone. What is not stated here in the headline, but also required, is that you trade in a smartphone when you first sign up for the plan.

According to a Sprint telephone representative, one year from now if you want to trade up to the iPhone 7, you must trade in the iPhone 6S, sign a new 22 month lease, and make monthly payments of the then current rate. She said you will owe nothing on the remaining 10 months of the original lease.

Like “unlimited,” “forever” means whatever the cell companies choose to define it as.




• • •

August 17, 2015

Say Bye-Bye to $199 iPhones at Verizon

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:14 am

  As of August 13, Verizon Wireless is no longer going to subsidize the purchase of new cellphones. That means you can kiss that $199 price for iPhone 6 or Samsung Galaxy S6 goodbye. When you get a new phone, you’ll be asked to pay around $650 for those high-end phones, but you can do so in monthly installments of about $27 to soften the blow. Other phones will be available at other prices. Current customers can apparently continue to renew their two year contracts and get subsidized phones, according to the AP.

On the bright side, elimination of subsidies also means the elimination of two-year contracts. So you are no longer bound to remain a customer for 24 months. You will, however, need to fully pay off the remaining monthly payments on your phone if you choose to leave Verizon.

Now the big question: Since you are now paying full price for the phone, are Verizon’s monthly rates for service lower than they were? Remember, depending on the plan, they did have embedded in them a roughly $20 charge to cover the cost of that $650 phone that you got for only $199.

Old plan pricing choices:

Verizon old plan phone costs

In the old system, you had three choices: pay for the phone in full ($650), pay in 24 equal installments ($27.08), or pay $199 (with a two-year contract.)

In the new system, you only have two choices: pay $650 in full or pay it off in 24 installments of $27.08:

new payment options

Besides the cost of the phone, there has always been a line charge, or a charge for the cost of the service per smartphone. The old charge was $40 per line, but if you were on “Edge,” you got a $15 monthly discount making it $25.

Data charges were separate charges also. In the old system, there were many choices with varying prices. Some examples, old/new: 3 gigs – $50/$45; 6 gigs – $70/$60.

Putting it all together, here is the old pricing for an iPhone 6 with monthly installments, on Edge, and with 3 gigs of data:

old total

Here under the new system is pricing for an iPhone 6 with monthly installments and 3 gigs of data:

new system pricing

In this scenario, you are paying $10 a month less than in the former system.

So how does this compare to the old system if you had gotten an iPhone 6 for $199 upfront with 3 gigs of data? You would have been paying $90 a month ($40 for line, $50 for data) plus the equivalent of $8.33 for the phone itself, or $98.33 per month. It is now $6.25 a month cheaper.

At least in these scenarios, the new plan is a little less money, but the rate shock of paying $650 for a phone may still be too bitter a pill to swallow for some. The problem is that you don’t have a ton of alternatives since increasingly the other carriers are also moving away with subsidized telephones.




• • •

July 6, 2015

Sprint’s New Pitch: (Not Quite) All-In Pricing Plan

Filed under: Electronics,Internet,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:44 am

  Could it be that some of the top executives at the cell and cable companies have been reading our latest rants in Mouse Print* about deceptive low-ball pricing and unexpected additional charges and terms. Probably not. But, as if to say “we can hear you now,” Sprint started a big promotional campaign last week touting its new “all-in” pricing plan.

Sprint’s CEO put it this way:

“If you went to a restaurant that advertised a cheeseburger for 99-cents, but when you show up, they said it’s an extra $2 for the bun or $1 for lettuce, you would feel misled. Yet, that’s what the industry has been doing with its wireless plans. Why can’t everyone just advertise the full price of both the plan and the smartphone – an All-In plan? That was the idea behind what we’ve created.”

As part of the campaign, Sprint produced this extended commercial that pokes fun at its competitors who double-talk customers about all the extra charges they impose.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QC22ZHo7Iak&feature=youtu.be

Wow. One monthly price for service and the phone.

Not so fast.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Sprint $80 a month

The $80 price you see is not the price you pay. Taxes, surcharges [including USF charges of up to 17.40%(varies quarterly), up to $2.50 Admin. & 40¢ Reg. /line/mo. & fees by area (approx. 5-20%)], roaming fees are still extra, and there is a $36 activation fee. Although this screen doesn’t say it (a prior one does in small print), this is for the lease of a phone. So you don’t own the phone, and will have to pay $200 at the end of two years if you want to keep it.

And here’s a new one: apparently Sprint is capping/throttling the speed of streaming videos to just 600Kbps — more like the 3G speeds that it uses on its prepaid service for videos.

So much for advertising a price that is “all-in.” Thanks, Sprint.

UPDATE: This video streaming restriction caused outrage among Sprint users and watchers, and within 24 hours Sprint backtracked removing that throttling of video speeds.




• • •

June 29, 2015

You May Not Own Your New Cellphone

Filed under: Electronics,Telephone — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

  If you are about to get a new cellphone from Sprint or T-Mobile, you better read the fine print, because you may not actually be buying that phone. You may only be leasing it.

MOUSE PRINT*:

Sprint ad

That’s right. Sprint is turning back the clock to the 1950s when you paid a monthly rental fee to Bell for your black landline Western Electric telephone. The difference: you are responsible for repairs if you don’t have a costly protection plan or warranty, and that old phone really sounded good.

For the iPhone 6, $20 of your monthly payment for 24 months is a lease payment, because under this plan, Sprint owns the phone. What happens after the lease ends?

  • You can turn in the telephone, get a new one if you want, and pay its monthly lease payments.

  • You can continue leasing it at an undisclosed monthly cost.

  • You can buy it outright for an undisclosed “purchase option price.”

  • The first option assumes your phone is in “good working condition.” If it isn’t, or if you lose the phone during the lease term, you owe the balance of any yet-to-be-paid monthly installments plus the “purchase option price.”

    If you opt to buy your Sprint iPhone 6 at the end of the lease, they will charge you $200 according to a local Sprint representative. That makes the phone slightly more expensive than buying it outright to start.

    Not to be outdone, effective this week, T-Mobile joins the leasing world also, by offering Jump on Demand. It is an 18-month lease program that allows you to upgrade your phone up to three times a year. T-Mobile, however, adds all kinds of penalties if the phone you turn in is not in working order.

    *MOUSE PRINT:

    You could be charged up to $750 in fines for the following:

    Cracked Screen Damage fee – $250
    Liquid Damage fee – $250
    Device does not power on fee – $250

    There are a whole bunch of other terms and conditions in both the Sprint and T-Mobile lease programs. It is getting to the point that you need a Ph.D. in cellphonery to understand all the choices, options, and terminology.




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