Deceptive marketing


I used to have Verizon phone and DSL Internet services, but then I sold my house and moved to a highrise condominium. I planned to continue with Verizon, but after five weeks without even telephone service and with a large number of excuses for why not, I ditched Verizon and moved my phone service to AT&T. That left Internet. Verizon has somehow got the monopoly on Northern Virginia DSL service, so it’s theirs or nothing. And you can’t get Verizon DSL unless you subscribe to their voice service.

The only other broadband option is Comcast cable, which costs a whole lot more than DSL. Having no other choice, I went with that. I don’t watch TV and didn’t want the cable TV service, so up until a few weeks ago, I was a high-speed Internet customer only. Then I received a call from a Comcast telemarketer telling me that if I changed my service to the Internet and Basic TV package, I would pay $15 a month less than I was currently paying (which was a total bill of $61.10 a month).

“Wouldn’t you like to save $15?” the young man asked. The answer was obviously “yes,” and I agreed to change my service to the package deal.

Today I received my first “reduced” bill for Internet and basic cable TV services. It is for $62.91—which is $1.81 more than the total bill I was paying before.

I called Customer Service. The representative with whom I spoke gave me a bunch of double talk about how I was paying $15 less—$42.95 versus $57.95 for the Internet service, but when you added in the TV service and taxes, well … umm yes, he supposed it did bring the total to “about” $1.81 more.

So I have just written to Comcast protesting what I consider to be deceptive–or at best, misleading–marketing practices. When someone tells you that you will pay less and save money but doesn’t explain that it is for one component of the package only and that by the time you add everything together, your bottom line is actually going to be higher than it was before, isn’t the natural assumption that you are going to be writing Comcast a smaller check every month?

I suggested that an appropriate response would be a reduction to my Comcast bill of the $15 I was led to believe would be the result of my signing up for the package. I said Comcast could disconnect the TV service or not as they wished—such is my interest in it that I have not yet even bothered to connect a television set to the drop to see if it works.

If Comcast has an atom of customer relations savvy, their response will be to reduce my monthly bill by $15 and leave my basic TV service in place. We shall see what happens. I’ll let you know.

7 Responses to Deceptive marketing

  1. mariemcc says:

    That certainly sounds like a deceptive practice to me. I hope you sent a copy of your letter to the Better Business Bureau.

  2. Kate says:

    Don’t hold your breath though!!

  3. Gerald says:

    I’ve just changed by broadband ISP. Been with plusnet for over twelve months. Signed up for their up to 2MB package and was getting an average connection speed of 1.7Mb which was great — then they said they were upgrading to 8Mb and at first I kept losing connection — thought it might be a problem with the router but I suspect not. For a while I got speeds just over 4MB put then it frequently dropped to well under 1MB. Customer service is only through the website and the use gobbledegook like your question has been given a ticket — the ticket has been upgraded — which means they’ve actually got round to answering. I did my homework and finally decided I’d switch to Fast who if you ring them or leave a message on the website, actually phone you back! When I told plusnet I was leaving, they actually rang me, offered me a free month to see if the service improved but I said I wanted to leave. I had to pay a £37 leaving fee before they’d issue a MAC code. I then discover that because the previous upgrade meant I’d gone LLU, in order to migrate I had to be un-LLU’d and would have to pay Fast a joining fee of £46. Then it took plusnet not 7 days but 14 to produce the MAC code to pass to Fast who migrated me after 7 days. But the delay in issuing the MAC meant I’ve also paid an extra monthly fee to Plusnet.

    However, the actually change over was fairly painless, the connection went off one warning, I put the appropriate name and pw into the router and reconnected. I seem to be getting over 5MB most of the time and thought at £22.99 a month, it is a £1 dearer than plusnet I’m hoping the better service will be worth all the hassle and expense.

  4. passante says:

    Marie — I thought I’d wait and see what response (if any) I get before I file a complaint—which isn’t as easy as simply sending the BBB a copy of the letter.

    Kate — You’re probably right. I’ve heard only a couple of things from people about dealing with Comcast, and they haven’t been positive.

    Gerald — What a nightmare. I hope that the service with FAST continues to be good. These companies often have us over a barrel.

  5. Elisabeth says:

    Corporations are in for profit – so why would they offer you more services for less than you currently pay? Actually, cable companies do this all the time. My cable company, Adelphia, was recently purchased by Comcast, which just took over. I think that I will soon be off to my Comcast office to see what premium channels I can get for less than I pay right now, usually that works for about 3 to 6 months. Then, I just cancel the extra service.

    By the way, I have run into tons of problems with Dell Financing. They are a royal pain. Thank God, I owe them very little right now, and will soon be done dealing with them.

  6. passante says:

    Corporations are in for profit – so why would they offer you more services for less than you currently pay?

    Elisabeth — My take on this at the time was that it was a basic (and perfectly legitimate) marketing tactic: give people a taste of what’s available and pretty soon they’ll be adding the premium movie channels and whatever else cable offers and eventually they’ll be paying the company a bundle. It’s well worth it to carry the handful of people like me who wouldn’t add anything and so would be getting the service at a reduced rate.

  7. Dave James says:

    Comcast in Oregon is offering a $17.99 high speed internet service (5mgs). After you order it, they slap on extra charges not mentioned anywhere in the agreement you sign. My first bill was for $54. I am told they have a policy to charge an extra amount since I do not have television service, too.

    They are very sorry, but that’s the way it is. Policy needs no further explanation. You must pay or be turned over to a collection service.

    Buyer beware. It is going to cost me $89 to “pay off” this extortion even though I stopped using the service immediately after receiving the first bill and dozens of phone calls since.

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