I have subscribed to Insight Cable, telephone and internet for a number of years for services at my home. Over a year ago I asked if they would allow me, as a loyal customer, to add the unlimited long distance they were advertising for new customers to my phone service for the advertised rate (free). They allowed me to do this, never explaining that I would now be bundled into an introductory service plan. I thought they were just doing smart business by rewarding a long time customer. Nope – after a year I was informed that my “introductory package” price was being jacked up an extra ten dollars. I discovered a new line on the bill that showed “unlimited long distance” as costing me $11.95, an astronomically high amount with today’s options from VOIP (voice over internet protocol) companies.
Since the $11.95 was a line item, I thought I could merely call and cancel that particular service. Again – NOPE! Sure, I could drop down to basic phone service at $23.00 per month, but my internet and cable charges would jump up higher than what I would be saving by losing the unlimited long distance. I was TRAPPED by Insight’s bundle. Not only that, I walked into it blindly by not being told and not realizing that I was being put into an introductory offer. I am currently pondering the legalities of this. Specifically, if nothing on the bill and no contract exists that says the prices listed are only because they are bundled together, is it unlawful (civilly or criminally) to refuse to drop a single, unwanted service. If enough of us are frustrated by this practice, we could apply market pressures and possibly explore the viability of a class action lawsuit. Beyond that, though, there are some lessons here that are a tenuously about economic justice.
First of all, Insight is engaging in poor business practices in that they effectively punish people who become loyal customers. Their marketing is targeted only to getting people to switch away from some other provider. Unfortunately, they know that most people do not make changes readily and will continue on with them even in the face of mounting charges on their bills because of the effort it takes to change. The second lesson then is that our reluctance to change is our enemy. We must fight against that lethargy and be willing to reject deals such as these that promise short term savings, but cost more in the long run.
The third lesson is that when a company gets large enough, they no longer have to reckon with the individual customer. They can use their economic clout to make the customers conform and even force billions of dollars in welfare type loans and incentives from the government. This became even more evident when I called to talk to Insight about canceling certain services. I spoke with a person who appeared to be inflexible both by nature and training and who gave me the most ludicrous explanation for the charges. They insisted that they simply put $11.95 down for the long distance charge as a random number and it could have been placed on any other particular item so the cost of the phone service was just $35.00 no matter which way you worked it. Again, $35.00 for phone service is ridiculously costly in this day and time. When possible, go small. Smaller companies have to be responsive to individual customers to thrive.
Tying this personal soapbox back into the theme of justice is pretty easy. Those without resources need to band together to have a voice and to be treated with justice, especially in these economic times of trouble.
Oh, just so you know, I canceled the long distance, canceled cable, plan to go to a VOIP company for phone service and will look at Windstream’s prices for internet.