Are You Paying Too Much for Cable, Cell Phone and Other Services?

I recently moved to a new city and signed up for cable television and Internet service from Insight Communications. I had a good experience as a previous Insight customer a few years ago, so I welcomed the opportunity to use the company’s services once again.

My feelings of goodwill went downhill after I received my first bill. I noticed the amount was higher than what I’d discussed with the agent who signed me up for service, so I reviewed the bill line-by-line in search of the extra charges. I quickly discovered the problem: Insight had added $16 a month to my bill for a subscription to HBO.

I never requested HBO service, nor did I want to pay for it, so I called Insight customer service to discuss the issue. The agent said the charge was added to my bill because I received HBO at no charge during my first month of service and, after that, customers get charged for the channel. She quickly agreed to remove the charge from my bill and discontinue my HBO subscription. The frustrating part for me is that I don’t recall anyone saying, “We’re giving you one month of HBO free, and then you’ll have to pay for it unless you call to cancel.”

In reviewing my bill further, I also discovered a $3 monthly charge for a modem rental. I own a modem, but the technician who installed my service didn’t ask if I had one; he just installed Insight’s device. I asked the customer service agent if this charge could be removed from my bill in future months if I bring their modem back and hook up my own. She assured me this would be no problem.

In light of this experience, I offer these tips for dealing with cable companies and other service providers:

Check your cable, cell phone and similar bills each month to ensure the amount you are being charged is the amount you agreed to. If you’re on an automatic payment plan, it can be easy to just file or toss the bill when it arrives, but be sure to check the total first. Use caution with “trial offers.” Although I don’t recall agreeing to a free trial, it’s possible I did. If you sign up for any promotions that require you to cancel within a certain period of time to avoid charges, make a note on your calendar so you won’t forget to cancel the service by the deadline. If you use cable Internet service, consider buying a modem of your own instead of paying a monthly fee to rent one from the cable company. You can buy a good, brand-name modem for around $55. This purchase would pay for itself in less than two years if you’re paying $3 a month to rent a modem. Before buying, verify with your cable provider that using your own modem is an option. You might want to buy your own router as well if you’re renting one now.

For more tips on saving money and avoiding customer service headaches, visit my blog,

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