The Right Way Negotiate A Lower Internet Bill
If you’ve ever had an internet subscription, you already know the games that your internet service provider (ISP) is going to play. You’ll start your service at a low introductory rate. Then they raise the rate on you. Often the ISP will raise your rate without telling you.
You’ll be left to discover your higher bill. Sometimes the difference is minimal. With ISPs like Comcast, the difference can be as much as 40% of your bill.
It seems like everyone has a story about how they were able to lower their internet bill by negotiating with their ISP. But what is the right way to go about talking to your ISP to get your bill lowered?
In this article, we’ll walk you through negotiating with your ISP to lower your internet bill. You won’t have to worry about getting your rates increased ever again.
In this article you will find out...
Why Does Your ISP Raise Your Rates?
ISPs know that they have a somewhat captive audience. When you sign up for an ISP, there isn’t necessarily a competitor that you can threaten to go to in every area. Many areas only have one ISP.
Because of this, ISPs have what is practically a monopoly. They have the incentive to raise prices once they have you as one of their subscribers because there aren’t any real consequences that you could cause when they do so.
Many times, the ISPs will try to disguise these price raises as introductions of new features which you cannot opt out of. You have an incentive to negotiate with them to avoid them adding the new feature to your package if they try this.
Realistically, ISPs do have infrastructure costs which they need to account for with their pricing. These costs are unlikely to fluctuate significantly from year to year on their end, but it may take them some years to pay off new infrastructure improvements if they do not raise prices.
So there are legitimate reasons that your ISP may want to raise the cost of your internet bill. On the whole, you will be better off if you can push back against these reasons too. Keeping your ISP’s costs one of the problems that they have to worry about helps you keep a fatter wallet.
When To Expect The Need To Negotiate
Not all periods of your subscription are equally vulnerable to rate raises. The ISP is unlikely to raise rates arbitrarily. Instead, they stick to a few milestones in your subscription process and the calendar year to determine when to raise prices.
You probably already have a good idea about when these periods are if you have ever had your internet bill increased.
The six-month mark, the one-year mark, and future year anniversaries of your subscription are all vulnerable points for your rate to increase. Likewise, the official expiration of your introductory period is a high-risk time.
Plan on negotiating after each of these milestones and check your bill over carefully. If your rate is the same, you don’t need to negotiate. If you notice any new charges or changes in the pricing of one of your core options, it’s time to negotiate.
Negotiating starts by looking up the billing number of your ISP’s customer service department. Once you have the number, grab your bill in paper format along with some personally identifying documents like your address and credit card number.
Then, start the negotiation.
How To Get The Introductory Rate
Negotiation usually begins slowly. The customer service rep will want to know the basic information about who you are, how long you have been a subscriber, what your problem is, and what you want to do about it.
Typically, they will not let you have a lower bill unless there has been a recent rise in the cost of the bill. So, you should limit your negotiation efforts to periods when your bill has been cranked up. Trying to negotiate downward from the introductory rate is unlikely to be successful because ISPs often price their introductory rate at a loss for them anyway.
Know The Incentives
They have no incentive to increase the amount of money they are losing on your subscription to keep you happy, but they do have an incentive to keep you happy if you are paying slightly more than where they break even.
Importantly, the price point where you are probably paying more than the amount that lets them break even is somewhere in between the introductory rate and the new rate which they will bill you for.
This means that it is in their best interest to give you a partial discount if they have raised the rate from the introductory rate.
It also means that there is some leeway for them to give you a total reduction of your bill back to the introductory rate provided that it means they will not need to spend customer service resources on you in the future.
Cracking The Negotiation
Given this information, you need to approach the negotiation as a rational economic actor who understands the positions of each side. You need to also understand the way that the other side anticipates the actions of their opponent.
The ISP knows that you are always going to push for a lower bill. It also knows that providing customer service costs money. Fundamentally, this means that the ISP will start to lose money the longer they have you on the phone and talking to one of their representatives.
You should expect your ISP to be more likely to give you a more favorable deal the more persistent you are in negotiations. Note that this does not mean you need to ask to talk to the manager of the customer service representative to seal the deal.
The customer service reps in the billing department are empowered to give you the bill reduction that you want. By asking to be referred to someone higher than them you are decreasing your chances of success.
Managers are likely to push the calculus of economics to the maximum before they assent to decreasing your bill. You can still get a bill reduction if you go through one of the managers but you will have to work harder for it. Remember, your time is worth money too.
So overly long negotiations are not in your interest if the cost is going to be more than the amount you would get your bill reduced by.
When talking to the customer service representative, you will need to have two lines of discussion. First, that you are a satisfied customer. Signaling that you are a satisfied customer puts you on a positive basis with the representative.
It also indicates to them that you are unlikely to use their service resources on spurious complaints, so lowering your bill is a relatively low-risk action that they can take to get you off the phone.
Second, you will need to explain to the representative that the price increase may make the service cost prohibitive to you in the future, forcing you to switch to a less expensive competitor.
Threaten To Leave If All Else Fails
If there are no competitors in your area, it is acceptable to lie and say you are moving. The company would not hesitate to lie to you, so do them no courtesy. The important thing is not to admit that there are no competitors in your area.
Threatening the ISP with moving to a competitor should be done subtly rather than directly if you can avoid it. Keeping things non-confrontational will help you get a better deal because the representatives are accustomed to people being obnoxious.
They’re willing to provide a bill reduction to people who seem like they are ready to be cooperative. Remember, they have the power to say no and stop negotiations altogether. If a representative does stop negotiations, you can always call back later and start them again with another representative.
Ask for a bill reduction and explain that you were expecting the introductory rate to continue. You may want to plead ignorance by saying that you did not know it was only an introductory rate.
The goal is not to get your bill lowered permanently. You need to get it lowered for the next year or for the next six months. They will almost certainly try to raise your bill again in the future. You will need to negotiate again at this point.
The fact that you negotiated before does not disadvantage you in future negotiations. The customer service representatives will have a record of your prior negotiations but it will not be a negative factor.
If anything you will be more experienced thanks to your efforts. So don’t worry about future negotiations. Likewise, do not worry about making promises you can’t keep to the customer service representative while lowering your bill.
If they say they will not raise your rate again, they may be lying. So don’t hesitate to say what you need to get the bill lowered.
Have you had success negotiating a lower bill from your internet service provider? Any hot tips we left out? Leave a comment below and share your story!