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Carriers and their Unfair Surcharges

It’s tough when costs and other business complications get passed on to consumers. It’s really unfair; but sometimes, it’s inevitable and most people are just resigned to the fact that there are additional charges being slapped onto their bills, charges with fancy names that try to vaguely justify why rates are going up.

phone carriers

The root of all evil (or, at least, the carrier surcharges)

What’s the deal with carriers, anyway? Aren’t they making enough money? The thing is, when technologies boom and people flock to carriers to get the latest and greatest, they make tons of revenue for a considerable amount of time. However, as the number of people getting new lines dwindles, the cash dries up and carriers don’t make as much profit as before. It’s not easy maintaining all those satellites and undersea cables, after all; and so they come up with these nonsense charges ‘to cover certain expenses’.

If you think about it, though, expenses are part of any business, and they’re already factored in when they compute for how much they should charge. While phone service providers (read more) can justify it any way they want, additional charges are just sneaky ways of padding revenue. They insert in small amounts, like the $0.61 per line AT&T implemented in May that subscribers are only starting to see now. It’s a fairly minimal increase, right? When you factor in the millions of lines, however, that’s a lot of money per month flowing into the carrier’s coffers.

What’s wrong with the additional charges?

In AT&T’s defense, a spokesperson for the company said that this new charge was basically what other carriers were doing, so they’re doing it, too. Is that fair? Is that the right thing to do? As a consumer on the receiving end of notices like this, there is always a pang of injustice felt upon acknowledging them. Even if it’s lower than another competitor (we’re looking at you and your $0.90 version, Verizon!), it’s never an easy thing to accept as a customer.

What’s more, it’s tougher when you realize that this is something that’s done with practically every utility. Water, electricity, gas—you name it. Surcharges shouldn’t really be anything new to consumers, but that doesn’t make them any less unfair.

Possible Solutions

With AT&T and Verizon firmly in place as the two top dogs in the mobile connectivity arena, there’s really nothing much we can do about what they do. They’ll continue to ape each other as far as financial moves are concerned, and some have pointed out that this will be the status quo as long as the mobile duopoly exists. When you consider it carefully, though, the other carriers are as guilty of these surcharges as the big 2. You may find the charges under different names, but they’re the same type of added charge nonetheless.

Of course, consumers can simply boycott these companies and opt for the alternatives or go without their lines altogether, but it’s a tough choice to make in this era of always-connected devices. Lines are pretty much an essential part of our lives; and sometimes, all we can do is suck it up. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain, though. Who knows, someone might hear the collective consumer voice and be able to do something about it.

As CNET’s Marguerite Reardon points out, contracts don’t really offer consumers much in terms of protection from such surcharges or rate increases. There’s precious little the end-user can do about these things except to try and get the most value out of the available service. Maximize your bandwidth, get in on any promos, and make sure you squeeze every last drop out of each dollar you pay. Until carriers and their respective rates can be better regulated, that’s the best way of getting back.

Written By

The author juggles being a wife to an engineer and a mother to a witty toddler. In her spare time, she involves herself in getting the word out about the RingCentral office phone system. Find Monique on Google+.

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