Time Warner Cable doubles fee to not list phone number [Telecom]

From Dave Lazarus' column in the LA Times today (31-AUG-2010):

That monthly $1.99 fee for something the company isn't doing for customers is now one of the highest of its type in the telecom industry, and there appears to be nothing to justify it.

Time for an update on one of my all-time favorite fees -- the fee that telecom companies charge to not provide you a service.

That service is publishing your name in a phone book, which is undoubtedly a pricey endeavor for phone and cable companies.

So if a customer asks that his or her name not be included in the directory, you'd think you'd be saving the telecom provider a little cash. That's one less entry in the database, for example, one less dollop of ink at the printer.

But this month, Time Warner Cable more than doubled its fee for an unlisted number to a whopping $1.99 a month, or nearly $24 a year.

The higher fee applies immediately for new customers. Existing customers will see their unlisted number charge go up in January.

Again, that's a recurring fee -- now one of the highest of its type in the telecom industry -- for something Time Warner isn't doing for customers.

What prompted the increase? I asked Jim Gordon, a Time Warner spokesman, if the company's own costs had gone up.

He declined to answer that question directly, saying only that this is "an administrative fee" and that it's "consistent with our competitors in this space."

Actually, it's higher. Verizon Communications charges $1.75 a month not to list your name in its phone book and not to give your number to people who call directory assistance. AT&T charges $1.25 monthly not to provide these services.

OK, so why is the unlisted number fee charged on a recurring basis? After all, your ongoing preference can be recorded with a few taps at a keyboard, and then it's done.

"It's a recurring service that you're provided throughout the month," Gordon explained.

Let's savor that a moment, shall we?

Time Warner and other telecom companies are charging for a service that consists of them basically not doing anything. And because they continue not to do anything month after month, they keep charging you on the grounds that it's a recurring service.

Time Warner's fee is all the more remarkable because the company doesn't produce its own phone book. It pays Sprint to compile all its customers' names and numbers, and to then pass them along to whichever phone company dominates a particular market for inclusion in that firm's directory.

Just to be clear: That's $1.99 a month not to be in a phone book that Time Warner doesn't even publish.

AT&T's and Verizon's fees are a little more understandable. After all, they make extra cash selling ads in their phone books. The more people who choose not to be listed, the less valuable the directory becomes to advertisers, so the phone company wants to discourage people from leaving.

But Time Warner isn't in the phone book business. Its recurring fee for unlisted numbers is a money grab, pure and simple.

And the unlisted number charge isn't the only way that the cable giant has started reaching deeper into people's pockets.

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Reply to
Thad Floryan
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As Tom Lehrer, or Mort Sahl, or somebody once pointed, you're mistaken on this point, because when they take your name out, it costs them a lot of money to move all the following names up by one.

***** Moderator's Note *****

Ma Bell used to say that non-listed numbers cost extra because they caused more calls to Information - oh, 'scuse me, "Directory Assistance".

Now, however, most Information calls are billed, so logically, non-listed numbers should cost less. Then again, I'm not a PUC comish, wondering if it's better to bank in the Channel Islands or Bermuda ...

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to

The best part is further in the article where a California Assemblywoman tried to introduce legislation to outlaw the fee. But, the various and sundry telephone industry prediators descended like locust on Sacramento and squished it dead.

The real point: "Let them eat cake." The politicos are beholden to the various lobby groups, especially the public service unions. The heck with the voters, the legislators know the system is rigged in favor of their reelection in spite of voter sentiments and wishes.

Reply to
Sam Spade

Heck, 411 calls aren't cheap--in our area they're $1.00 . But supposedly it includes national listings.

The Philadelphia area Bell did not charge for unlisted numbers until relatively late (1980?). However, at the same time they put that charge in they eliminated the charge for one extra listing for a number. For years our family paid an extra 50c a month to list a member of our extended family who lived with us--then it became free.

Would anyone know when any Bell company began to charge for unlisted numbers?

I agree, given today's world, it is ridiculous to charge for unlisted numbers.

Reply to
Lisa or Jeff

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