AT&T and Verizon are raising prices for caller ID and other popular phone
services by as much as 300%, even as they continue to push regulators to loosen
up because of increased competition.
AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) have argued they need pricing flexibility to compete
with cable TV and others offering Internetbased phone services. Dozens of
states have acquiesced, giving carriers freedom to jack up prices.
In California this month, AT&T raised prices for several standalone features:
Anonymous call rejection now costs $5 from $1.90 caller ID rose to $9.99 from
$6.17. Some local toll calls — calls that arent considered longdistance but
dont qualify as local — jumped by more than 200%.
In Ohio, AT&T raised the price of call forwarding and threeway calling from $4
each to $5.99. Automatic call back now costs $1.99 per use, up from 70 cents.
Verizon has made similar moves. Call forwarding now costs $3 a month in Ohio, a
300% increase from 75 cents. Call waiting is now $5 a month, up from $3.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: AT | Verizon | Verizon Communications
"This is not a good story for consumers in Ohio," says Janine MigdenOstrander
of the Ohio Consumers Counsel. "Customers are getting rate increases, but
theyre not getting a whole lot of benefit for it."
Verizon spokesman Eric Rabe says consumers "arent trapped in any way. … The
reality is that people have lots of choices" in telecom companies.
AT&T prices, even with the increases, "are very competitive," spokesman James
Peterson says. Both say prices, in some cases, had not been changed in years.
Mindy Spatt, communications director of The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a
consumer advocacy group in California, says the increases speak to the market
power of AT&T and Verizon. In truly competitive markets, "Prices go down, not
up," she says.
In many markets, cable TV companies offer Internetbased phone services and
throw in caller ID and other popular features for free. Consumers usually have
to buy a bundle of services — voice, data and video — to qualify.
AT&T and Verizon are using the same tactic, offering cutrate prices to
customers who buy bundles of services. Those packages can be pricey, topping
$100 or more a month. Verizons Rabe says consumers who want to control costs
"can go to the bundle. Those prices are steady or falling."
Consumer advocates say the elderly and lowincome families are hardest hit by
the creep in fees.
They are "lesssavvy consumers who dont have the wherewithal or time" to shop
for better prices, says Chris Murray of Consumers Union, which keeps tabs on the
national consumer scene.
Peterson says, "The majority of our customers prefer bundles. … Its where the
market seems to be moving."
** Check out our
ATT Phone Cards
Tag Clouds: ATT Prepaid Calling Card,
ATT International Calling Cards,
ATT Long Distance Calling Cards