Bill Skills: Saving on your cable bill

Bill Skills: Saving on your cable bill

SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - It's become one of the biggest bills you may get in a month, so much so that many people are dropping cable altogether. As we continue our Understanding Your Bill series, we're taking a look at your monthly cable bill, and how you can make sure you're not being overcharged.

Spectrum, the primary cable provider for the Wilmington area, declined our request for an interview to help customers better understand their bill. But they did tell us via email that their bills have recently been simplified.

"All taxes and fees are included on Voice, there's no modem fee on Internet…," Spectrum Spokesman Scott Pryzwansky explained about the streamlined bill, adding customers with questions about their bill should visit their website or call their toll free number.

There are still a number of miscellaneous fees you will find on the bill. Spectrum says the FCC Admin Fee and the Franchise Fee, for example, are "required telecommunications taxes, fees and charges."

Regarding the Broadcast TV Surcharge, Pryzwansky explained:

All TV providers are required to carry the local broadcast channels for their area as part of the first tier of service sold to customers. This fee reflects the increased price Charter is now paying local broadcasters to carry their signal, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox affiliates. Because the per-customer cost of local broadcast channels is increasing so dramatically, we think it's important this cost be itemized on your monthly statement. The Broadcast TV Fee covers some, but not all, of that cost.

While there are some charges you can't do much about if you want to keep your cable service, Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina President John D'Ambrosio said there are still ways to save.

"Mostly it's not being sloppy with your bills. It's looking at the bill and seeing what the charges are," D'Ambrosio said of his common sense approach to make sure you are not paying more than you should. "Do you have HBO? Are you watching it? Do you have more than you really need?... You may have a high definition box, and don't know it, but you are going to be billed for the HD box, or the DVR or what have you, whether you use it or not."

D'Ambrosio recommends looking very closely at your bill to make sure you understand the charges. For nominal fees, you may want to consider if it's worth your time to try to protest the fee. But if it's a recurring nominal fee, that can still add up, so you may want to double check that it's a legitimate fee and a fee for a service you are actually using.

If you do want to protest something on your bill, D'Ambrosio says you should also reach out directly to the company first, and you should remember your manners if you want results.

"How would you react to someone who is really angry?" D'Ambrosio said of the problem with taking a hostile tone with the people in Customer Service. "I think it pays to be nice at the end of the day. You have a concern that your bill may not be correct, you're not accusing them of doing anything, you shouldn't accuse them of doing something bad. Maybe there's a new fee because of a regulation."

While he advises against being rude, D'Ambrosio says you should be persistent if you don't get the desired result on your first attempt.

"If you don't get satisfaction, you can still be polite. And say, well I don't agree with that but I am going to pursue other avenues. Not in a threatening way, and I think most people will try to help you."

D'Ambrosio says companies go to great effort and expense to get your business in the first place, and they want to keep it. So if they can, they will typically work with you.

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