by Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Every time you turn around it seems that companies are increasing a fee here, boosting a bill there.  And one cost may come as a surprise.  In fact as 3 On Your Side consumer reporter Jim Donovan found, some believe it could impact safety as well.

Cable, internet, phone.  Many homeowners these days have bundled service.

Kristie Finnan is one of them.  Her provider is Verizon.

“You just pay one bill so that was part of it,” said Finnan.

The service comes into her home through a box in her basement.  It’s out of sight, out of mind, kind of.

“One night I was sitting upstairs and I’m like, I hear this beeping. I thought it was maybe a smoke detector the battery or something and then my husband said, oh it’s the Verizon box,” said Finnan.

The 12 volt battery that powers the phone system in case of a blackout needed replacing.

“I didn’t even know it had a battery to be honest.  I had no idea until it started beeping,” said Finnan.

“It’s included for the first year of your service as with the warranty period after that the customers responsible for replacing the battery if they choose,” said Verizon spokesperson, Lee Gierczynski.

And replacing that battery isn’t cheap, $34.99 plus tax and $9 shipping if she gets one from Verizon.

Verizon says it’s all in their terms and conditions.

“It clearly outlines what the customer is responsible for in terms of battery,” said Giercyzynski.

But we couldn’t find it no matter how hard we looked.

Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky believes companies offering digital voice need to be more upfront about the costs.

“When all these companies switch to all digital, part of the relief was, oh.. there’s a battery backup system so if there’s a black out, someone can make an emergency phone call or call 911,” said Dworsky.

Comcast Xfinity voice customers have a battery back up too. It’s found in the voice modem which rents for $7 dollars a month.

“It’s one thing if you bought your own but this is their equipment, they should keep their equipment functioning full,” said Dworsky.

In the past Comcast provided batteries and replacements free of charge. But not anymore.  Since the end of February customers now have to pay for all batteries. They say it’s disclosed during the initial ordering process.

“I just think it’s outrageous that these modems are coming without batteries or that you have to pay 35 or 40 dollars for their replacement,” said Dworsky.

To be clear, these battery back up systems power the service, but not the phones themselves.

If all your phones are cordless, battery back up won’t do a thing.   By the way Verizon now says it discloses the battery policy in the paperwork customers receive after signing up.

You can buy these batteries elsewhere.  We found the exact same battery that powers the Verizon equipment for ten dollars less online.  Be aware that if you buy a different brand battery and anything goes wrong, you’d be responsible if it damages the equipment the same holds true if you fail to remove a dead battery and it leaks.

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