Everyone loves a good cable service. The channels, the live broadcasts, video on demand, DVR, streaming integration, signature apps, and premium international content are some of its best features, which are pretty hard to say no to. While these perks may be the reason why you’re attracted to a cable TV package in the first place, you may feel deceived when the time of reckoning comes, i.e. the bill payment. Cable companies, with the expectation of a few, are notorious for overcharging their subscribers, and that without getting caught. They are great at covering their tracks, extracting more money out of customers through various machinations.
Just this year a Consumer Reports survey revealed a startling fact. The research team analyzed around 200 cable bills and found that an average subscriber pays almost $450 per year on top of advertised prices. Unbelievable! Are you also being cheated by your cable company? Here’s how you can know for sure.
‘New Customer’ vs. ‘Existing Customer’ Rates
Since the cable market is already saturated, the competition is on the rise. Each cable company tries its best to get as many customers through the door as possible. Lead acquisition is more important than anything else, which is why the companies float golden offers to catch the collective interest of the consumer body. These ‘new customer’ offers consist of dialed-down cable service rates, which sound ideal to an average ear. However, once a subscriber passes the set promotional term, the rates switch back to ‘existing customer’ ones, increasing $10 to $35 per plan, depending on the kind of service you have.
If you were not informed about the imminent rate hike by your cable company upon signing up, then chances are that this jump might shake you to your very core, making you feel cheated. Some providers like Time Warner do hint at this price hike through crystal-clear disclaimers that accompany all the amazing Cox cable packages, so you can know exactly what sort of a jump to expect after the end of the promotional term. Other providers might not even show you other narratives besides the advertised ones, tricking you into thinking that the rates will remain the same throughout the service period.
Hidden fees are the regulatory charges that appear ‘out of nowhere’ and as a ‘given’ on your cable bill at the end of the month. These costs pile up on your advertised plan rates, pushing your cable bill beyond the limit and out of your pocket’s reach. What sort of hidden fees can you find on your bill upon inspection?
There’s broadcast TV and regional sports surcharge of $11 to $15, which the local stations levy on the cable carriers for delivering their channels, who in turn pass them on to the customer. Then, we have the cable box fee, DVR service fee, HD technology fee, cloud DVR rental, late payment fee, and reconnection fee. Besides these, the premium subscriptions have their own monthly charge starting from $5 and going up to $10. If you don’t go premium, you can avoid these.
Moreover, there’s government regulatory fee, service taxes, and miscellaneous costs which go on top of your cable bill. To avoid hidden fees, call your provider, and have a detailed discussion regarding each cost. Demand justification and if that doesn’t satisfy, change your company for the one which has more transparent pricing.
Having to deal with monthly bills is a tiresome chore as it is. Fortunately, cable companies offer a solution in this regard, i.e. Auto-Pay and paperless billing. All you have to do is provide the details of your monetary source, whether a credit card or bank account, and that’s it! The service dues for each month will be cleared automatically and you won’t have to fumble around with invoices anymore. Providers also give out special discounts if you set up auto-pay and there’s a sneaky reason behind it.
Once you opt for automated bill payment, you will only receive an online statement about the cleared charges. In other words, you won’t be able to detect the price hikes or extra charges that your cable company hides in your bill, let alone put your foot down and stop the payment in the process. Everything will be done so smoothly that by the time you start noticing the drain on your savings, it’ll be too late. So, while auto-pay is convenient and paperless billing is eco-friendly, there are risks involved especially when the game is controlled by your cable company.
It is a wise move to examine your cable bill before you pay for it. Keep a sharp eye out for post-promotional rate hikes and hidden charges that a provider imposes on your bill, and you won’t feel cheated at the end. Stay smart, stay sharp.