Group offers ways to save on phone bills

February 10, 2009 3:18:26 PM PST
A group says most phone customers in Illinois are spending too much on their bills. Whether it's calls at home or on a cell phone, a new report by a consumer advocacy group says Illinois residents are spending too much money on their phone bills.

The group says consumers could save hundreds of dollars each year simply by changing their calling plans. The Citizens Utility Board says customers in the state could save an average of more than $500 each year by doing a little homework.

Many consumers pay for minutes they don't use and calling features they don't need at a rate that is typically too high. So, trimming the fat from your phone bill can be a simple way to realize big savings, as well as help the economy.

Ronald Hargarten says he always looks for bargains when paying his bills but didn't know that he could save even more money-- until he got an e-mail about the Citizens Utility Board's program that helps consumers cut the cost of their phone bills.

"The plan I had gave me seven different options, call waiting, forwarding. When I was working I needed those services. When you don't work, you don't need those," Hargarten said.

Hargarten called CUB and got a consultation over the phone about his bill. CUB recommended that Hargarten, an AT&T customer, switch from the more expensive "personal choice-plus" plan to the more economical "consumer's choice" plan. He now saves $12 a month for local calls.

"He called back and gave me some ideas, some ideas that AT&T doesn't tell you about," said Hargarten.

"Phone companies make a whole lot of money selling you plans that are bloated," said David Kolata, Citizens Utility Board.

CUB also said Tuesday that Illinois consumers can save a whole lot of money. The organization reviewed more than 37,000 phone bills and found that the vast majority of people could cut their cost by about $575 with a few steps...

AT&T customers could choose a cheaper local service plan for an average savings of $187 a year, A cheaper long distance carrier like Pioneer telephone's rate-buster plan could mean a savings of $80 a year. Downsizing your wireless plan could mean a savings of more than $300 a year.

"If everyone who would benefit took action, the collective savings would be $1.5 billion a year in Illinois," said Kolata.

Hargarten has taken CUB's advice to heart.

"Don't be satisfied with what you've got. Constantly monitor what you can get," said Hargarten.

CUB says that potential for $1.5 billion in savings could be a much needed boost to the state's economy. When people are spending less on fixed monthly expenses, they have more money to inject into the economy.

CUB encourages phone customers to either call CUB or log on to their website, which has a program for you to plug in your bills to see how much you can save.

LINK: CUB web site