WORLD EXCLUSIVE: AT&T will take $14 off your phone bill, but there’s a catch

   Here’s big news that could save you $168 a year on your phone bill. But of course, AT&T isn’t calling to tell you.

   Watchdog Nation is.

   You may be entitled to a $14 reduction on your monthly phone bill – plus another three months of back credit for another $42. Over a year, that’s $168.

   But there’s a catch. Only Watchdog Nation, the consumer rights movement led by founder Dave Lieber, an investigative columnist, can tell you how to do this. In four words.

   You. Have. To. Ask.

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   Here’s the deal. One of the many free-and-easy guiding principles of Dave’s Watchdog Nation is this: you have to remember to ask each of your providers (cable, satellite TV, Internet, phone, electric) every few months if they are running any specials that will lower your bill. Tell them their competitors are offering you better prices.

   Almost every time we do it, it works.

   The other day, we, at Watchdog Nation World Headquarters in Texas, called AT&T’s customer service line. It’s no secret that Watchdog Nation is no fan of this corporate beast. (See our post “Is AT&T America’s worst company?”).

   What we learned in that call surprised us.  Turns out that for the past few months, AT&T has offered a new discount program that it has not publicized. Remember: You. Have. To. Ask. [pullquote]It’s called the “All Distance Bundle Package.”[/pullquote]

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    It’s called the “All Distance Bundle Package.”

   This is available to all AT&T customers who meet the requirements: aAnyone who has the “premium unlimited long distance and local calling plan” with AT&T and WHO ALSO pays for another AT&T service using the same name and Social Security number, can get the $14 monthly discount.

   Other services that qualify include: any U-verse product; any DSL Internet product (all speeds qualify); any wireless plan rated at $39.99 per month or higher, or anyone who subscribes to DirecTV.

   In other words, if you use AT&T, say, for your home landline and also have U-verse TV or DirecTV, you get $14 off your bill.

   But …

   You. Have. To. Ask.

   Remember the name: The All Distance Bundle Package.

   * * *

   Do you like this kind of up-to-date inside information? Learning how to save money, avoid scams and be smart about how you spend your dollar?

   You’ll love the new 2013 edition of the national award-winning book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong. Learn more at Dave’s bookstore here.

   Dave also shares Watchdog Nation’s simple concepts with a hundred or more audiences a year. Learn how to get Dave to visit your group here.

Dave Lieber's Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong won two national awards for social change.

Watchdog Nation salutes three citizen watchdogs who took care of business

Here’s a Watchdog Nation salute to three citizen watchdogs who set a fine example about how to be your own watchdog.

Meet Don Judd, a software engineer in Benbrook, Texas who never lets a worker into his house without seeing proof of insurance. He decided to make this his personal rule after a worker fell through his ceiling.

When DirecTV sent installers to his house without proof of insurance, he sent them away. Several times.

I contacted DirecTV, where a spokesman said, “This is the first time we’ve ever been asked for a certificate of insurance, and we obviously weren’t prepared to produce it.” He said the company has a new procedures to better handle these requests.

Tip: Remember to ask for proof of insurance and a contractor’s bond.

Meet Michael McGuire, a police officer, who got angry when the airbag system on his 2006 BMW wasn’t working properly. He researched it and found that there was a recall. But no dealer would fix his car because it missed the cutoff date for the recall by four months, even though it had the same problem. Cost of repair: $1,000.

He contacted me, and I suggested small claims court. He sued the manufacturer in Johnson County, Texas. But before his court date, he squeezed a final pressure point: He told the manufacturer he would file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The company agreed to settle. McGuire withdrew his lawsuit. His car was fixed. For free.

Tip: The police officer hit the company with two pressure points. It worked.

And meet Matthew Howell of Arlington, Texas who wondered why his Sprint wireless bill increased $2. He called Sprint and a rep told him, “Well, our costs went up so we passed them on to you.”

He asked for a manager, who gave a different reason: He said the state and city had raised the sales tax. But that’s not true.

He wrote his state legislator, who passed his request on to the state comptroller’s office.

The office investigated and discovered that for one of the billing periods he questioned, Sprint had undercharged both state and local taxes. Luckily, the billing period after that, Sprint overcharged. But only by a penny.

The reason for the change in his bill? Something called the Federal Universal Service Fee Assessments, designed to make sure that all Americans have phone service. The program is administered by the Federal Communications Commission, and the rate changes every three months.

Many companies pass this fee on to their customers. So if the rate changes, the sales tax amount changes, too, by a few pennies or more.

Tip: Worth checking your bills because those pennies add up.

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Dave Lieber, The Watchdog columnist for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is the founder of Watchdog Nation. The new 2010 edition of his book, Dave Lieber’s Watchdog Nation: Bite Back When Businesses and Scammers Do You Wrong, is out. Revised and expanded, the book won two national book awards in 2009 for social change. Twitter @DaveLieber

Dave Lieber book that won two national awards for social change.