Ripoff nation: How Verizon and AT&T stacked the deck against cell phone users –

In addition, how many phones last more than a year or two? In particular, batteries? For the record, I took T-mobile up on their offer to pay early termination fees and switched from Verizon this week. My 1 year old droid razr maxx was in need of replacement anyway.

Ripoff nation: How Verizon and AT&T stacked the deck against cell phone users

Friday, Jan 10, 2014 2:24 PM UTC

Heads they win. Tails you lose.

Lynn Stuart Parramore, Alternet

Topics: AlterNet, verizon, AT&T, Cell-phones, mobile devices, T-Mobile, Sprint, Technology News, Business News

Ripoff nation: How Verizon and AT&T stacked the deck against cell phone users(Credit: AP)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet If you live in America, there’s a good chance you’ve not been overjoyed by your wireless plan. Simply by using a device essential to your daily life, you have been screwed. Let us count the ways.

If you overestimate how many voice minutes, text messages and data usage you need, you get screwed. If you underestimate, you also get screwed. If you have a contract, you get screwed if the service ends up being bad. If you don’t have a contract, you may find that a company can suddenly raise prices, and so you may get screwed there, too. Studying your bill often reveals still more ways you have been screwed. Did someone with a foreign number text you? Unlucky you! Did you download a ringtone thinking it was free? Oops! You’re screwed. Your bill is a maze of fees: activation fees, upgrade fees, early-termination fees, 411 fees, mysterious third-party fees, fees no one can understand. Customer service is mostly a joke.

Why is this happening to you? Because of a game called Oligopoly.

Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

Does Oligopoly sound familiar? Remind you of another game you used to play called Monopoly? You’ve got it. Oligopoly is its first cousin.

An oligopoly is a market dominated not by one, but by a small number of players. Because the number of players is so small, serious price competition doesn’t happen very much. Instead oligopolists tend to do sneaky things like put their heads together to figure out ways to raise prices, protect their turf, and limit consumer choices. They typically deploy armies of lobbyists to accomplish these goals. Some of these lobbyists go on to careers as regulators or vice versa (more on that in a moment).

The market for wireless providers is a classic case of oligopoly, currently dominated by AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, with T-Mobile bringing up the rear. In recent years, the number of players in the carrier market has shrunk, with the size of individual players increasing through mergers and acquisitions. Last year, AT&T gobbled up Leap Wireless, T-Mobile swallowed MetrocPCS and Japan’s Softbank bought Sprint.

When you get down to it, the wireless market is really a duopoly between AT&T and Verizon, which have about two-thirds of the market between them. They are the big boys, with Sprint and T-Mobile considered the challengers.

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