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3 On Your Side: Saving On Cell Phone Fees

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When the cell phone bill arrives each month, do you just open it, cringe at the fees and send in the payment?  Well as 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds, you may want to speak up!   It could save you big bucks and keep money in your pocket.

When Mimi Sun upgraded her iPhone, she was shocked to see her carrier tacked an “upgrade fee” onto her bill.  She says, “I definitely was like, ‘what? I’m not paying so much money.’  And, I was staying with the same carrier. ‘It’s not like I’m changing anything.'”

An upgrade fee is the latest example of a “one time” charge some cell phone companies hit consumers with.  An analysis of the four major U.S. carriers by Cheapism.com found they can ‘dent’ your wallet up to $36!

Louis Denicola of Cheapism says, “The advertised price is never the true price.  If you look at the small print it says plus fees and taxes.  That can add anywhere from 17 up to 24 percent on top of the bill.”

But you may actually be able to talk your way out of upgrade as well as activation fees.  According to Denicola, “Activation fees can be shocking.  A family of four that wants to change carriers might have to pay over 140 dollars.”

So experts say speak up!   That’s what Sun did, reminding her carrier she’s been a long time customer.  According to Sun,  “I said, ‘as a courtesy, can you take that off?’ and they said ‘yeah, sure no problem.'”

Not all fees are negotiable. If the money is going to taxes or government imposed fees, forget it.  What about those monthly administrative or regulatory fees, which range from twenty-one cents to about $2.50 a line?  Probably not.

How about roaming charges?   With no international plan while vacationing in the Dominican Republic, Joshua Fuentes got quite a surprise when he returned to the United States: a $2,000 phone bill!  Fuentes says,  “It didn’t really cross my mind, thinking about my cell phone plan.”

But when he called to complain, his carrier reduced his bill 90 percent!  Fuentes says, “I was happy that I called and negotiated the prices because the price they originally gave me, there’s no way I could pay it.”

Experts say you may also have luck negotiating early termination fees and late fees too. For a rundown on cell phone fees, and to learn which carriers are charging less than others, click the links below:

http://www.cheapism.com/cell-phone-fees

http://www.fcc.gov/guides/understanding-your-telephone-bill

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