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Product Reviews

Getting a better deal from the cable company

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Take a close look at your cable bill. It’s a confusing onslaught of charges, taxes, and add-on fees.

With all of the fine print and opaque pricing, it’s hard not to feel like you’re getting ripped off. In the previous six years that the Consumer Reports National Research Center has conducted customer satisfaction surveys on in-home telecommunication services, cable providers have consistently rated below average.

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One positive finding from the survey is that consumers of telecommunications services are becoming more savvy negotiators. Four out of 10 respondents attempted to bargain with their service providers. Among the hagglers, 46 percent said their provider dropped the price by as much as $50 per month, 31 percent got a new promotional rate, and 29 percent received additional premium channels.

Bargaining tactics that work

Ask for a better deal. It might sound obvious, but the first step is to call customer service and say your bill is too high. Ask whether you qualify for any promotions, including their best deal for new customers. Stress that you’ve been a loyal subscriber and want to stay — but only if they can do something for you.

Fight price increases. Even if your promotion has expired, ask whether you qualify for a new one: Forty-three percent of Consumer Reports subscribers in that situation negotiated a new discount. If you encounter a helpful representative, note his or her name.

Check out the competition. If your requests fall on deaf ears, see what other local providers offer new subscribers, then ask your current provider to match it. Several Facebook followers said their company was willing to meet or beat a competitor’s price. Note that you might have to sign a contract to get the sweeter deal, so decide whether it’s worth being locked in.

Threaten to disconnect. Still no luck? Call to say you’re planning to cancel your service because it costs too much. You’ll be directed to a customer-retention representative, who might be more willing to work with you. But be warned: Over the past few months, Consumer Reports has found that telecom providers are more likely to skip the discount and offer a small perk, such as faster Internet speed or a three-month freebie on a premium channel.

If you’ve called a number of times in the past, you might not get concessions. One Facebook respondent said his provider offered nothing but thanks for his previous business and the comment, “Sorry you will be leaving.”

Be ready to walk. At some point, you might have to switch. Before you move to another company, check its website for the best deal and request a written quote that includes all equipment charges, taxes, and fees. Find out how long the promotional rate applies and what the bill will be after it expires. Once you put in the disconnect order, you might find that your former provider wants you back. One Facebook poster said his company offered him a better deal when he arrived to turn in his equipment.

Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at consumerreports.org.

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