Utility watchdog offers consumers ways to cut pay-TV bill

By Steve Tarter, Peoria Journal Star, December 14, 2016.

PEORIA – If you think you’re paying too much for your TV service, you’re not alone.

“Our surveys show that more than seven in 10 pay-TV customers think their bills are too high,” said Jim Chilsen, a spokesman for Chicago-based Citizens Utility Board, speaking at a news conference Wednesday at the Peoria Public Library.

The consumer watchdog group that generally monitors telephone company and utility rates in the state, has released its first guide that focuses on the many television choices consumers now face, he said.

“For the first time in our 32-year history, we’re providing a comprehensive guide to cutting TV bills,” he said, noting that CUB has categorized TV customers into four groups: those with cable/satellite service, those who stream programs through an internet service, those who use over-the-air service, and those who use a combination of different services.

“The TV industry’s game-changer was the internet. Cable companies began to offer broadband and phone service over their lines, opening the door for ‘triple play’ packages that allowed them to make more revenue,” said Chilsen.

Cutting the cord, the phrase used to describe switching from cable TV, has become problematical when consumers have to rely on the cable company for an internet connection, he said.

Chilsen said that CUB provides 12 tips to cut the cable bill.

“Pay TV is one of the few industries where, typically the longer you’re a customer, the more the company charges you. The best deals are reserved for the new customer,” he said.

To fight back, Chilsen said that the first step was to start with the bill. “Ask yourself if you need all the services you’re getting. Once you determine that, negotiate. Ask for a lower price but, before you call your TV company, make sure you know the costs, dates and terms of your current service.”

Chilsen said that consumers support the following reforms: requiring pay-TV companies to offer a basic, low-cost package; reducing excessive cable box fees; offering a-la-carte programming (paying only for channels wanted); and allowing customers to cancel online without having to call the pay-TV company.

The guide is available online at www.CUBCableCenter.com. CUB’s consumer hotline is (800) 669-5556.

Read the full article here.