They're aggravating and upsetting; dropped calls, hidden fees and bad customer service are some reasons cell phone companies are among our top consumer complaints.
"Consumer Reports found that cell phone companies rank up there with HMOs."
Jim Chilsen is the spokesman for Illinois' Citizens Utility Board, or CUB. The organization is fighting for the rights of cell phone customers.
Chilsen says the industry is very lightly regulated so costumers need to know what they're getting into before signing a contract.
"People are very frustrated because once they get in a plan they realize they don't have good service and they're stuck.”
They are stuck because it can cost hundreds of dollars to cancel your contract.
Another unpleasant surprise many of us encounter is late fees and additional charges on our plans. If you don't ask about these extra charges you may not find out about them until you get your first bill.
Roaming calls can cost 69 cents per minute, and if you use up the minutes in your plan additional phone time can cost a whopping 45 cents per minute. That means an hour-long phone call could cost us $27!
"If you’re consistently going over 100 minutes, consider changing plans."
"A lot of cell phone companies suggest buying insurance in case you lose your cell phone or it breaks, but that won't necessarily protect you."
Sprint's insurance charges $50 to replace phones, so before signing a contract there are some questions you should ask a cell phone provider.
"You want to find out if there's an activation fee and how much it costs to get out of your contract."
"Find out if your cell phone includes long distance."
Also determine if you will get service in your hometown, how much it will cost if you go over your minutes, what additional charges, taxes and fees will be added to your plan and how much extra services such as text messaging and Internet access will cost you.
"Never give up, be persistent."
Chilsen says that persistence is necessary so long as we take a back seat to companies' bottom lines.