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Cell Phone Plan Confusion

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(Source: CBS4)

(Source: CBS4)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Between talk time, texting and data usage, finding the best plan can for you and your family can be confusing.

The high tech hustle and bustle of the Boone family costs about $240 a month. They’d like to pay less, but when it comes to finding the best plan they freeze.

“It’s a puzzle within a puzzle within a puzzle,” said Amy Boone.

A pricing puzzle because as CBS4’s exclusive analysis reveals, the four major U.S. cellular carriers combined, offer about 200 different plans.

CBS4 worked with Validas, a mobile analytics firm that crunched the numbers and found that within those plans, there are also thousands of combinations available for options like messaging, data services and device protection.

“You have to have choice for consumers, but then that choice creates confusion because when people want to buy they want things simple,” explained Todd Dunphy, the president of Valides.

He said “plan confusion” often results in “wireless waste.” That’s the difference between what you pay for your mobile plan and what you actually use.

Validas found that last year, Americans overpaid more than $52 billion dollars and 83% of users with high data plan limits didn’t use all they paid for.

“People are over-buying in the fear that they’re gonna go over, but in fact what they keep doing is never using those gigabytes they’re buying,” said Dunphy.

Thanks to the FCC pressure on carriers, 97% of wireless customers now get “alerts” if they’re about to exceed their plan limits, so there’s no overage charge “bill shock.”

Dunphy said some mobile providers are responding to customer calls for simplicity.

There are now 20% fewer plans than there were just two years ago. But he said providers still need to give users choices.

“They have different sets of users and people that need all kinds of different things. And, you know, the one-size-fits-all is not going to work.”

So how do you know if you’re on the right plan?

Most major cellular providers websites offer plan calculators. You can also call your carrier for an analysis.

The National Consumers League recommends reviewing three-months, worth of bills.

“Are you using less voice than you thought you were going to? Are you using more texts than you thought you would? See if there’s a way that you can adjust your cell phone plan or maybe switch carriers to find one that better meets your needs for a cheaper cost.”

Validas did an analysis of the Boone’s bill and found they don’t need “unlimited data.” By simply changing to a “shared data plan” it should save them $400 a year.

Amy Boone is happy about the extra money she’ll now get to keep in her pocket and is thankful for the help.

“It’s a huge headache to try to figure this stuff out,” said Boone. “I think a lot of people just let it go.”

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