Bundling lets you combine your cable, internet and telephone services and save big bucks. At least that's what the commercials promise. But is it worth it? Tonight liz crenshaw finds out if "bundling" is all it's bundled up to be.
The communications companies advertise that this one-stop shopping plan is right for almost everyone. But some consumers tell us there's a hitch in the pitch.
"Oh god, you wouldn't believe it. You would not believe how exasperating!"
"Oh, it's horrible. I've never been through anything like this."
Christine Smith says her Verizon FIOS bundling bill has gone from dream to nightmare.
Based on Verizon's quote, she thought bundling would cost her about $150 a month, but a funny thing happened on the way to her checkbook.
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"I've now had 7 month's bills, and no bill has ever been the same. So after 7 months i still have no idea at all what my monthly bill will be."
That's because smith's monthly bundling bill has run from a low of $142 to a high of $269. With other prices in between. And Smith says despite extensive notes, it's very difficult to get someone on the phone to fix her bundling, and if she does....
"If something is fixed, something else goes wrong. And the problem is that you can never talk to the same person."
Smith says the thing is, Verizon contracts make it sound like bundling is a one-price deal. And the constant ads on TV make it sound like that deal is unbeatable.
But at Consumers Union, Joel Kelsey says the initial thrill of bundling with any company goes away quickly for many consumers.
"Consumers we're finding like the fact that they pay everything in one bill. And they see a cost savings when they want all three services together and they pay all together in one month."
But we've talked to several consumers in the past who complain that the bundled price they were promised by various companies is not the bundled price they ended up with.
Melissa emails us saying she's spending 3-to-4 hours each month trying to resolve her bundling bill.
Jennifer says she receives 2 different bills each month and so far has spent $500-dollars more than the bundled price.
Joseph says he got charged for his promised first-month free service and has spent 6 weeks fighting for his refund.
Harold says his $99-dollar bundle costs at least $170 a month.
And Christine says her bundle company auto-debited $288 in overcharges from her checking account.
And Consumers Union says many bundlers will really be surprised when their introductory offers run out.
"For a lot of consumers who signed up for let's say $99 a month triple play service, they see their monthly bill go up well over a hundred dollars now."
So that rightly gives consumers some indication of what they're going to be paying for the rest of the time they're with the company.
Consumers Union says customers should understand every fee they'll encounter if they bundle. It also says fierce competition allows customers to haggle with the bundle company for a lower rate after the promotional period ends.
So back to the question. Is it worth it?
"How do you feel about bundling?"
"I don't, i wouldn't, i don't think it's worth it."
Verizon told us that ms. Smith's bills varied each month because her wireless usage varied, and it took some time for the billing cycles for her services to be in sync. It also notes that it has improved ways customers can raise billing questions.