Customers Feel Ripped Off by Internet, TV Service Providers, But Haggling Pays Off

By Kimberly Koerth Comments
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Despite spending an average of $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," said 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."

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 percent said their provider dropped their price by as much as $50 per month, 44 percent got a new or extended promotional rate, 33 percent received additional channels, and 16 percent got discounted or free equipment.

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