Cell Phone Companies Ratings Consumer Reports

Cell Phone Companies Ratings Consumer Reports – A new survey by Consumer Reports magazine found that nearly 70 percent of active wireless phone users reported at least one dropped call in the past week. And almost 60 percent have had a bad relationship.

In addition, most of the monthly readers encountered problems when purchasing another wireless service or were disappointed when they asked their carrier – despite industry claims that they give consumers increasingly large buckets of minutes for their money.

Cell Phone Companies Ratings Consumer Reports

Cell Phone Companies Ratings Consumer Reports

“There’s a hole in the bucket,” said Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union, the consumer watchdog group that publishes Consumer Reports. “What’s missing is a simple and reliable service.”

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The magazine, which conducted a random survey of 39,000 online subscribers in 17 cities this fall, said readers were not very satisfied with cell phone service, putting cell companies on par with cable TV providers and health care organizations.

Cingular Wireless, the nation’s largest wireless provider, dismissed the findings, noting that Consumer Reports has always been critical of the cellphone industry.

“The fact is, wireless prices have fallen over the years, innovation has soared and more than 170 million Americans have made wireless a vital part of their lives,” said Cingular spokesperson Lauren Garner.

In addition, the industry trade association pointed to a separate study by J.D. Power and Associates, which showed that customer satisfaction has increased significantly over the past year. However, JD Power also said satisfaction has largely been “on a downward trend” since it began studying the industry in 1995.

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However, Verizon Communications, California’s largest mobile carrier, was ranked No. 1 in the Consumer Reports survey both nationwide and in the Bay Area for the third year in a row. Locally, the magazine surveyed readers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

“Verizon led the ratings,” Guest said, “but it wasn’t without its problems. It just had less problems than other operators.”

Locally, Cingular Wireless and Sprint tied for second behind Verizon. Consumer Reports found both companies to have “average” levels of customer satisfaction nationwide.

Cell Phone Companies Ratings Consumer Reports

And AT&T, which was recently absorbed by Cingular, ranked last in the Bay Area survey. Local AT&T customers are reporting static, congested networks and dead zones where service is not available at all. The ranking marks a sharp drop from last year’s survey, when AT&T was in second place behind Verizon. AT&T also performed miserably nationwide, according to Consumer magazine.

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Consumer Reports said it did not receive enough responses from local subscribers to rate several smaller carriers in the Bay Area, including T-Mobile, Nextel and Metro PCS.

Nationally, however, T-Mobile is second only to Verizon. “Usually a good choice,” wrote the magazine. “High but variable customer satisfaction.”

This is consistent with the report by J.D. Power, which found that Verizon and T-Mobile have the highest customer satisfaction rates in the western US of all the major mobile carriers.

In contrast, Consumer Reports criticized Nextel for “low customer satisfaction” nationwide, including spot coverage in four cities. Last month, Sprint signed an agreement to buy Nextel for $35 billion, but the deal is not expected to close until later this year.

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However, Nextel spokeswoman Audrey Schaefer noted that staff turnover is lower than other carriers. “Our customers are voting with their dollars and their feet,” she said.

Verizon, on the other hand, insisted on its No. 1 rating. “We value ratings like this because they are the result of direct customer feedback,” spokeswoman Barbara Kerl said.

Sprint did not dispute the findings, but said the company continues to invest in its network and improve customer service. “We have bigger ambitions to be No. 1,” spokeswoman Carolyn Semerjian said.

Cell Phone Companies Ratings Consumer Reports

However, Cingular said the study was misleading. For one thing, it notes that the study was completed before Cingular and AT&T Wireless merged their operations. “This is an extremely important event that has improved consumer reach,” said Garner, a company spokesman.

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She also noted that the survey included only subscribers to the Consumer Reports website, not all phone users in the US.

“These types of self-selected polls are not necessarily representative of the general population, as CR itself acknowledges,” Garner said.

Mark Kotkin of Consumer Reports acknowledged that the publication only surveyed its readers, but Kotkin said he doesn’t see why his subscribers report different rates of dropped calls than other wireless subscribers.

Journalists also said they were skeptical that AT&T and Cingular’s services would improve as a result of the merger, noting that both companies have reputations for poor service and congested networks.

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“We don’t see how merging two companies with congested networks is going to solve the problem,” Guest said.

– Shop. Compare each carrier’s plans and rates for your needs. For example, Cingular and Sprint may be better choices for people who use significantly different amounts of minutes from one month to the next.

– Check your phone. In California, wireless carriers are required to give customers 30 days to try the phone before charging customers a hefty cancellation fee.

Cell Phone Companies Ratings Consumer Reports

– Sign up for a short contract. This makes it easy to cancel if service drops or you move to an area with poorer coverage.

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– Read the fine print. Some brokers, for example, charge their own $350 early cancellation penalty in addition to the carrier’s $200 fee.

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