Best Buys: Cell phone service

(National) Jan. 5, 2005 - Some 170 million people have cell phones, and you don't have to go far to hear a litany of complaints.

A just-published Consumer Reports survey assessed six national wireless carriers: Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and Nextel, as well as Cingular and AT&T.

The survey compared the carriers in 17 cities, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Washington, DC.

Jim Guest of Consumer Reports says the survey found major problems with every carrier, "We found that overall levels of satisfaction are lower than for most other services we measure, right down there with HMOs and cable TV."

More than half of the respondents said they weren't very satisfied with their cell phone service, a very poor showing. But, Guest says some carriers did better than others, "Verizon was consistently at the top of the ratings. It had the highest levels of customer satisfaction and fewer problems with service."

For a third year in a row Verizon had the strongest showing in the survey. And, this year T-Mobile moved up as a strong second choice.

Whichever carrier you choose, Consumer Reports says take advantage of the trial period to make sure the service works where and when you need it to.

The recent merger of AT&T and Cingular has created the largest wireless carrier. The proposed merger of Sprint and Nextel could create the third largest if it comes to pass. Consumer Reports says customers of merging cell phone companies should check their bills carefully for mistakes as companies combine operations.

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

Copyright © 2005 Consumers Union of U.S. , Inc. All Rights Reserved.