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Fees, Contracts, Monopolies
Old 07-30-2013, 01:24 PM   #1
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Fees, Contracts, Monopolies

During the winter, on Saturday morning, we woke to a cold house. The A/C-Heating company came right out and in an hour, a $155 control panel was replaced and we were back in business. Labor was $142... What?!!! Yes, on Saturday and Sunday labor is charged at Time and a Half. So the $95 became $142. Hmmm... When I go to Walmart for an oil change on Saturday, I don't get charged time and a half for labor... nor at the hospital, or the Insurance Company.

We just received a notice from Comcast... with new fees. See below.


In case you can't read the fine print, EVERY home visit by a Technician will result in a basic charge of $60 even if the problem is in the equipment (which they charge you rental for) or any connectivity. That charge is in addition to a charge of $20 to $60 for specific services such as new outlets or additional equipment.... PLUS... an additional $60/hourly charge, if the work takes longer.

AND these charges do not include any:
applicable taxes, franchise fees, FCC fees, Regulatory Recovery fees, Public Access Fees, or other applicable charges.

Also extra charges for: Installations more than 125 feet from a box, or that require in-wall wiring, or dropped ceilings, basements, or crawl spaces...

Reactivation Fees where no in home service is required $15.

BTW... Comcast in my town offers only High Speed internet access up to 20MBS, but has a little clause in the advertising that says this is not guaranteed. In my case, the speed often drops to 1 or 2 MBS. Also there is no other Internet access from any source... ie. AT&T or anywhere else, except dial up.

.................................................. ..........
But it doesn't stop there. DirecTV also has some interesting charges for the equipment you are "renting"... I get "rental charges" for equipment that I bought myself many years back, and they will chege me $120 per unit it I don't return them. In addition to that, if something goes wrong with the receivers, unless I pay some extra crazy "maintenance charge" to insure the equipment each month, then I will have to pay a minimum service charge for a technical visit.

It's even worse, if one puts in new DirecTV service, and decides to cancel.

Here are some parts, not all of the agreement:
Quote:
PROGRAMMING AGREEMENT AND TERMS. To keep costs down for you, we provide dishes and standard installation at reduced or no cost. In exchange, we ask that you remain a customer for a specified period of time. Specifically, you agree that, within 30 days of getting DIRECTV equipment (either provided to you or installed professionally), you will activate your Receiver(s)/Genie Mini Clients(s) and subscribe to a base level of programming, valued at $29.99/mo. or above, which may consist of a DIRECTV base programming package (English or Spanish language); OR a qualifying international language a la carte service bundled with either BASIC CHOICE or PREFERRED CHOICE. If you do not activate each DIRECTV Receiver/Genie Mini Client, you agree that DIRECTV or the authorized retailer from whom you obtained the equipment may charge you $150 per Receiver/Genie Mini Client as liquidated damages. You agree to continuously maintain the minimum level of programming with us as follows: new customers: 24 consecutive months; existing customers: 24 consecutive months for DVR, HD and/or HD DVR Receivers and any Genie Mini Clients, or 12 consecutive months for standard Receivers. If you selected a Genie HD DVR, you agree to pay a monthly Advanced Receiver Service fee ($25/mo.). If you selected an HD Receiver, you agree to pay a monthly Advanced Receiver-HD fee ($10/mo.). If you selected a DVR Receiver, you agree to pay a monthly Advanced Receiver-DVR fee ($10/mo.). If you selected a TiVoŽ HD DVR from DIRECTV (except for model HR10-250), you agree to pay a monthly Advanced Receiver Service fee ($25/mo.) and a monthly TiVo fee ($5/mo.). THIS AGREEMENT TO MAINTAIN PROGRAMMING IS SEPARATE AND DIFFERENT FROM ANY OTHER YOU MAY HAVE MADE WITH DIRECTV AND IS FULLY ENFORCEABLE UNDER THESE TERMS.
And, if you cancel?

Quote:
EARLY CANCELLATION FEE (ECF). If you do not maintain your base level of programming for the full term, we will charge you an early cancellation fee.
The maximum fee is $480 for new customers, $480 for existing customers with DVR, HD and/or HD DVR Receivers, or $240 for existing customers with only
standard Receivers. We prorate the fee, so for each month you’ve fulfilled your programming term agreement, we deduct $20 from the fee (i.e., if you have fulfilled 14 months of a 24-month agreement, your ECF would be $480 - $20 x 14, or $200). We reserve the right to charge this fee to the credit or debit card you have on file with us. We do not charge an ECF if you decide to cancel your DVR Service or HD Access early, so long as you maintain the base level of programming. However, upon cancellation of DVR Service and/or HD Access, you are required to return the equipment used in connection with these services to DIRECTV as described in Part Two below.
and it goes on and on for more pages of "legal" than a small novel. http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/conten...lease_addendum

The title of the thread included "Monopolies"...
In our case, for Comcast, Definitely a Monopoly. They were allowed to buy out the original cable provider, with no attention at all to the laws forbidding monopolies. The same "buy-out" to create monopolies has occurred time and again across the country, and I can't remember the last time a buy-out or merger has been denied. The list is too long to post here.
While not monopolies (a now vaugue term) the oil companies have created an effective monopoly, by collusion or maybe coincidental? price increases.

Hmmm...
now I have to open a letter from my electricity provider... maybe not until tomorrow.

What we need is De-regulation.
Yes... I do understand... Free Enterprise is in our best interest.
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Old 07-30-2013, 01:29 PM   #2
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Their labor charges just went from $33 per hour to $60 per hour? I'll bet the techs doing the installation didn't just get a big raise, either....
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Old 07-30-2013, 01:55 PM   #3
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The AC company charged time and 1/2 because you made an emergency call outside of normal hours. They all do that. WalMart has regular hours on Saturday and they don't do emergency oil changes. Hospitals.... good luck figuring out what they actually charged you for something, many employees do get overtime pay and shift differentials but that is not on your bill, but a $40 bottle of aspirin may explain some of it. Also no one guarantees internet speed, unless you pay for that.

I agree some the charges are insane. My single phone line quoted as being $16.50/month ends up at $35 after all the fees, taxes etc are applied.
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Old 07-30-2013, 05:38 PM   #4
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Their labor charges just went from $33 per hour to $60 per hour? I'll bet the techs doing the installation didn't just get a big raise, either....
Bwahahahaha...

A few years ago, my AC outside unit stopped working. It was >100 outside, and I couldn't get to it myself for a couple of days, so I called the company that did the install several years earlier.

Long story longer, the tech replaced the fan motor and capacitor. Total time, including a run back to the shop, was 1.5 hours tops.

Bill: $700!

Out of curiosity, I went to Grainger's web catalog, and found the exact replacement motor for $120...

And, come to think of it, the motor might have been fine, because I had a similar issue some time later - turns out one of my sprinkler heads was shooting a jet of water directly into the fan - and replacing the cap fixed the issue. Cost around $8...
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Old 07-30-2013, 06:07 PM   #5
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Just another reminder why I dropped cable/dish/landline/etc. Now if they pull that on my internet service, them's fightin' words.

Just a matter of time, I assume.

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Old 07-30-2013, 06:23 PM   #6
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I want to add all those bank fees to the list of gouging.
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Old 07-31-2013, 02:49 AM   #7
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Delta Passenger Abandons Baggage to Avoid $1,400 in Fees | The Exchange - Yahoo! Finance

"A passenger on Delta Airlines early Tuesday left four of his seven bags at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, apparently because he didn’t want to pay more than $1,000 in baggage fees."
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Old 07-31-2013, 04:49 AM   #8
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The only way such things will change is if consumer protection laws are passed and laws that elevate companies over consumers are rescinded. The idea that for-profit businesses are going to just cut themselves open and distribute their organs for the good of consumers has passed, and complaining without hardcore intentions to change the laws, providing consumers real power individually, rather than relying on the vagaries of collective influence, changes nothing for consumers.
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Old 07-31-2013, 06:49 AM   #9
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This is one reason I try to have personal friends who are auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians, appliance repair persons, etc. I trust them to charge me a fair price as I want them to stay in business, but there at a lot of the little things they down which they do not charge or instruct me how to do myself.

A couple of years ago DW knocked the side view mirror off of her car, and we paid $170 to replace it. Recently one of my sons had it knocked off again, but this time I asked a mechanic friend who pointed I could get the part for $20 and replacing it was just a matter of taking off a couple of screws and bolts. There were now also online videos for my car model showing the procedure. It took my son and I about 30 minutes to replace it.
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Old 07-31-2013, 07:18 AM   #10
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Regarding the OP, I don't think deregulation is going to do anything to increase cable competition. The cost of wiring a city and then trying to win marketshare from the dominant player and DTV/Dish would be financial suicide.

Maybe some sort of future technology with over the air delivery will help but it costs a lot to lay cable.
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Old 07-31-2013, 07:40 AM   #11
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Recently my front-loading washing machine stopped spinning to dry clothes. I researched the problem and fault code on the Internet. I ordered the part, watched a video on YouTube and voila, fixed for $85. I'm sure a technician would have been hundreds.
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Old 07-31-2013, 08:12 AM   #12
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The only way such things will change is if consumer protection laws are passed and laws that elevate companies over consumers are rescinded. The idea that for-profit businesses are going to just cut themselves open and distribute their organs for the good of consumers has passed, and complaining without hardcore intentions to change the laws, providing consumers real power individually, rather than relying on the vagaries of collective influence, changes nothing for consumers.
The trouble with trying to regulate this is, lawmakers move very slowly, and you usually end up with something that was 'designed by committee'. Businesses are generally more focused and can find ways around those regs before they even get signed into law.

And in a competitive environment, businesses will do what they need to attract customers, and sometimes they have to fight for the customers. Are you familiar with Adam Smith and his axiom "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest."

It works pretty well in a competitive environment. I do sometimes favor govt intervention into monopolistic industries - but by increasing competition, not by trying to regulate prices/profits.


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Recently my front-loading washing machine stopped spinning to dry clothes. I researched the problem and fault code on the Internet. I ordered the part, watched a video on YouTube and voila, fixed for $85. I'm sure a technician would have been hundreds.
I'm a DIY guy to save money. But I can't really fault a repair person for charging hundreds to replace an $85 part that you ordered. They likely had the part in stock (that costs), they have travel time, overhead, and they can't afford callbacks and mad customers. That all adds up pretty fast if you plan to stay in business and be reasonably profitable. If I screw it up, I just try again later. No big deal. A service guy has to try hard to get it right the first time. And this often means 'over-doing' the repair. I can be more selective, as I have the time, and can handle a 'call back' easily.

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Old 07-31-2013, 08:18 AM   #13
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Regarding the OP, I don't think deregulation is going to do anything to increase cable competition. The cost of wiring a city and then trying to win marketshare from the dominant player and DTV/Dish would be financial suicide.

Maybe some sort of future technology with over the air delivery will help but it costs a lot to lay cable.
The municipality should have required 4 or 5 cables be run at the time of install. The incremental cost of wire is very low compared to the cost of digging, tearing up and fixing roads, landscaping, etc. Then you could have companies compete for the use of that cable.

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Old 07-31-2013, 02:40 PM   #14
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I have mixed emotions about this subject. I'm just libertarian enough to think businesses should be allowed to charge what they want as long as they don't commit fraud. On the other hand, it really angers me when it feels as if I'm being gauged (pick an industry - airlines/baggage, banks/fees, heating & cooling/repairs, etc. etc.) Now, agreeing that these folks have the right to charge what they want and in the manner they want, I reserve the right to despise them for doing so - especially when they take advantage of vulnerabilities. I also reserve the right to bad-mouth them and to never form a loyalty with them. I'll play their silly game (you should see how much crap I can stuff into my carry-on) but I will resent it. When the time comes to use their service again, I'll search for the lowest price as I know "service" is a thing of the past.

One example (probably mentioned elsewhere). The bank handling funds from the family business was going to charge a $3 fee to open the bank bag we deposited most nights. I tried to negotiate, but they wouldn't budge. I closed all of our accounts (considerably north of $40K in total) and moved to a bank without the fee. 6 months or so later, a bank officer called and asked why we had closed the account. He got an ear full (expletives NOT deleted). It was sweet revenge. Unfortunately, not all services have alternatives so readily available. And (whether they collude or just follow-the-other-guy) most industries adopt each other's money making schemes (e.g., paying for luggage - except SW, IIRC).

It is a changing world and loyalty has taken a big hit. Price/"value" is king. So, I understand why business plays their games. BUT, now that there has been such a total shift, it would seem the times are right for a hero to step forward and capture (via loyalty) a segment of the population. Maybe that's just wishful thinking. But imagine a bank advertising that they are deleting their "special" fees for services that used to be free. Imagine an airline saying "we've chosen to offer 2-bags-free - the way we used to do it. What they lose in fees, they just might make up in loyalty and volume. Maybe not, but it's a nice dream to think things could go back the way they were. Still, I agree that businesses are not in it for the "fun of it". They are in it to make money. I just disapprove of their new way(s) of making money. YMMV
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Old 07-31-2013, 02:48 PM   #15
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I could be wrong, but with Comcast, you can pay like $1 per month to reduce the cost of home visit and you can buy this maintenance thingy right before you need someone to come in (that's what they told me when I thought I needed someone to check my line). I cannot remember the exact detail, but you may want to look into it.
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Old 07-31-2013, 02:56 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Koolau View Post
I have mixed emotions about this subject. I'm just libertarian enough to think businesses should be allowed to charge what they want as long as they don't commit fraud. On the other hand, it really angers me when it feels as if I'm being gauged (pick an industry - airlines/baggage, banks/fees, heating & cooling/repairs, etc. etc.) Now, agreeing that these folks have the right to charge what they want and in the manner they want, I reserve the right to despise them for doing so - especially when they take advantage of vulnerabilities. I also reserve the right to bad-mouth them and to never form a loyalty with them. I'll play their silly game (you should see how much crap I can stuff into my carry-on) but I will resent it. When the time comes to use their service again, I'll search for the lowest price as I know "service" is a thing of the past.

One example (probably mentioned elsewhere). The bank handling funds from the family business was going to charge a $3 fee to open the bank bag we deposited most nights. I tried to negotiate, but they wouldn't budge. I closed all of our accounts (considerably north of $40K in total) and moved to a bank without the fee. 6 months or so later, a bank officer called and asked why we had closed the account. He got an ear full (expletives NOT deleted). It was sweet revenge. Unfortunately, not all services have alternatives so readily available. And (whether they collude or just follow-the-other-guy) most industries adopt each other's money making schemes (e.g., paying for luggage - except SW, IIRC).

It is a changing world and loyalty has taken a big hit. Price/"value" is king. So, I understand why business plays their games. BUT, now that there has been such a total shift, it would seem the times are right for a hero to step forward and capture (via loyalty) a segment of the population. Maybe that's just wishful thinking. But imagine a bank advertising that they are deleting their "special" fees for services that used to be free. Imagine an airline saying "we've chosen to offer 2-bags-free - the way we used to do it. What they lose in fees, they just might make up in loyalty and volume. Maybe not, but it's a nice dream to think things could go back the way they were. Still, I agree that businesses are not in it for the "fun of it". They are in it to make money. I just disapprove of their new way(s) of making money. YMMV
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Old 07-31-2013, 04:12 PM   #17
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I have mixed emotions about this subject. I'm just libertarian enough to think businesses should be allowed to charge what they want as long as they don't commit fraud. On the other hand, it really angers me when it feels as if I'm being gauged (pick an industry - airlines/baggage, banks/fees, heating & cooling/repairs, etc. etc.) Now, agreeing that these folks have the right to charge what they want and in the manner they want, I reserve the right to despise them for doing so - especially when they take advantage of vulnerabilities. I also reserve the right to bad-mouth them and to never form a loyalty with them. I'll play their silly game (you should see how much crap I can stuff into my carry-on) but I will resent it. When the time comes to use their service again, I'll search for the lowest price as I know "service" is a thing of the past.
Yeah, the problem is that consumers are *sometimes* in a relatively helpless and captive situation, and in *that* case I think some regulation to prevent gouging and gross profiteering may be appropriate (admitting that the definition of "gouging and gross profiteering" is somewhat arbitrary, but I'm speaking in principle). I respect the free market, but I also think that it can only remain viable if most people want to keep it, and allowing egregious abuses may turn people to support excessive restraints that hurt commerce and the economy.

Where there is sufficient competition and few barriers to prevent consumers from going with a competitor offering better terms, I think the market should be respected and left alone.
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Old 08-01-2013, 06:59 AM   #18
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A situation which is clearly not the case for any virtual pipeline services, such as subscription television, broadband, or cellphone service. The fact is that deregulation exists in these markets because people who wanted to make money from offering those services insisted on it, not because it benefited the consumer in any way. The reality is that in any context where there is a static cost for infrastructure, consumers will always be better off with stringently overseen regulated service. Prices are inflated by duplication of infrastructure, and without regulatory oversight, service providers can participate in the "rush to the bottom" in terms of cost of service, in the interest of profit, with impunity, because consumers are too cost-conscious to make service quality a sufficient priority, rewarding higher quality suppliers with substantially higher revenues for their superior service. Consumers these days are far more likely to expect the higher quality service, but pay for the lower quality service, and then just bitch about it, than actually pay a premium price to obtain for themselves the higher quality service.
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Old 08-03-2013, 08:10 AM   #19
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The municipality should have required 4 or 5 cables be run at the time of install. The incremental cost of wire is very low compared to the cost of digging, tearing up and fixing roads, landscaping, etc. Then you could have companies compete for the use of that cable.

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Or we can wait for the Google WIFI balloons to drift into our neighborhood.
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