Eight out of 10 wireless shoppers say they need more information

New Consumer Action survey finds 50% of new customers are surprised by amount of first bill


Linda Sherry, Consumer Action (202) 544-3088

Ken McEldowney, Consumer Action (415) 777-9648

Americans buying wireless service want more information that’s easy to understand, according to survey results released today by Consumer Action, a national non-profit education and advocacy organization. Sixty-one percent of 1001 randomly selected adult respondents nationwide indicated they want more pertinent details about their service plan presented to them in an easy-to-understand manner. Consumers told surveyors they don’t like surprises around the cost and coverage area of cell phone service. The Consumer Action study also shows that 50 percent of subscribers were surprised by the amount of their first bill and 39 percent were surprised by the coverage area they actually received. An overwhelming majority, 90 percent, would like an estimate of their first bill up front when they purchase wireless service. “These results underscore the need for more readily available information for consumers,” said Ken McEldowney, executive director of Consumer Action. “To meet this need, Consumer Action, working in conjunction with Cingular Wireless, has developed a free brochure titled ‘Choosing a Wireless Service Provider.’” The brochure addresses important topics such as determining what kind of rate plan is best for each consumer, keeping one’s wireless number when switching companies, how rebates work, and what to expect in the first wireless bill. Consumers can obtain a copy of the brochure by visiting Consumer Action’s web site [Click here] or at www.cingular.com/consumeractionbrochure. The brochure is being published in Chinese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese in addition to English. The multilingual brochure is part of a Consumer Action/Cingular national educational program that includes a leader’s guide for community-based organizations to use in counseling clients, PowerPoint curriculum and workshop materials. The publications will be distributed by CA’s national network of more than 8,000 community groups. In addition, train-the-trainer meetings are planned for Northern and Southern California for agency staff. “Consumers can avoid unnecessary problems by simply knowing the right questions to ask when buying wireless service,” said Mike Bennett, executive director of consumer and external affairs at Cingular Wireless. “Cingular is proud to partner with Consumer Action on this new brochure which provides wireless users with a wealth of information.” Additional findings from the survey include:
  • The main reason consumers give for switching carriers is getting a better deal elsewhere. That’s followed by network coverage and network quality.
  • Wireless users say that having coverage in their cars is most important, followed by coverage at home and then at the office.
  • Consumers are most interested in video and camera capabilities when they select a new phone, followed by the need to have a nice looking phone at an affordable price.

Survey Methodology

The survey, conducted by International Consumer Research for Consumer Action, was conducted during March 24 – April 6, 2006 and surveyed 1,001 adults ages 18 to 49 who currently own a cell phone and subscribe to wireless service or plan to do so within the next year. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. About Consumer Action Consumer Action (www.consumer-action.org) is a national non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization headquartered in San Francisco, CA with offices in Washington, DC and Los Angeles, CA. Consumer Action is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2006.

Top Wireless Tips

The wireless world offers broad choices among service providers, calling plans and phones. With so much to choose from, it can be a challenge to figure out what’s best for you. Below are some of the Top Tips discussed in Consumer Action’s “Choosing a Wireless Service Provider” brochure. 1. Take a “cell” assessment to determine the provider, phone, plan and features that best meet your needs. Ask yourself:
  • a. How often will you use your wireless phone?
  • b. How will you use your phone? Just for talking? Or for communicating in other ways, such as text messaging or email?
  • c. Where will you use your phone, and whom will you call?
  • d. When will you use your phone?
  • e. Whom do you speak with most often?
  • f. What kind of phone do you want?
2. Avoid surprises in your wireless bill by asking for an estimate of your first bill and ongoing bills when you sign up for service. Your first bill will probably be higher than normal due to the activation fee, possible prorating of monthly charges and advance payment of the upcoming month’s charges. 3. Find out how to keep track of your minutes to help you better manage your wireless plan. Some carriers allow you to check your balance on your phone, on the carrier’s website, or by calling a toll-free number. This can help you avoid paying for costly additional minutes. 4. Prevent theft and fraud by guarding your wireless phone like any other valuable – don’t leave it in your car or unattended in public places. Also, if your wireless phone is lost or stolen, immediately contact your carrier and suspend service. This will protect you from unauthorized charges – don’t wait. 5. Make sure your service works where you need to use your wireless phone. Most carriers have coverage maps at their store or on their websites. Also ask local friends and co-workers about the carriers they use. 6. When making a commitment, look for a carrier with a generous trial period, and ask what charges you will be responsible for if you cancel service. And, if you are dissatisfied with your service, be sure to cancel before the trial expires. Otherwise you may be charged a termination fee of $150 or more.



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