Dear Consumer Advisor,
I’m thinking about bundling my telephone and internet services with my cable service. By bundling I will get just one bill for multiple services. But how do I decide which is the best service for me and what do you do if I have a complaint?
Signed, Curious Consumer
Dear Curious Consumer,
You’re asking all the right questions, and I can provide some answers. However, before we go any further please be advised that TURN is not able to handle complaints related to cable or the internet because they are not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission. They are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission and very lightly regulated at that. We can however, provide you with some tips to help you be a savvy shopper:
Buy only what you’ll use. Paying for services that you don’t need is a waste of money. Are most of your calls local or do you have family and friends spread across the country or outside the United States? Do you use the internet just for e-mail or do you like to watch and download videos and pictures? How many channels do you want? It may be helpful to make a list of your needs.
Shop around. If you have access to the internet the best way to shop is online, where most of the special promotions and rebates can be found. Print out the different offers and compare them. But remember! Deals change all the time and the deal you find one day may be gone the next.
Ask Questions. Don’t hesitate to call the companies to ask more specific questions. For example, how long will this special rate last? TURN gets lots of calls from consumers who say that the price changed on them within three, six and 12 months!
For phone service, make sure you know what bells and whistles are included, and whether you want them. If you’re signing up for phone service with a cable company, ask if the phone will go out during a power outage. Be sure to ask if international calls are included in the calling plan.
Can I call 911?
In general, yes, but it may not be what you think. Some companies provide 911 dialing but the calls are not always routed to local emergency services, and it’s not guaranteed that your name and address will display at the call center. Make sure to find out what kind of 911 access you’ll receive.
Can I keep my phone number?
In most cases, yes. Most providers offer Local Number Portability (LNP), but be sure to ask this question up front and find out how long it will take. You might need to keep your old service until your number is ported.
Negotiate: Ask your current providers if they will offer you special deals to stay with them or ask them to match the price of their competitors.
Read the fine print and ask more questions: Some bundles have extra fees and charges or that really great deal expires sooner than you think! Make sure to ask what your first bill will look like. Some companies charge your for two months when you first sign up or you may be charged installation or activations fees for some of the plan’s components.
Watch out for long-term contracts: Some companies will lock in a monthly price for two years but if you try to break the contract you’ll have to pay a fee. Make sure you get price protection before agreeing to a long term contract.
How can I file a complaint against my cable company?
The California Public Utilities Commission cannot help you with long-distance telephone, cable TV, cellular phone rates, paging, or Internet rates and services.
File a complaint with the FCC Online
Contact them by phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
TTY: 1-888-Tell-FCC (1-888-835-5322)