Think twice when offered Savings on your Utilities / Phone Bills

Most of us will be fed up of getting calls trying to persuade us to change landline / mobile carrier or electric / gas company. However checking out the tariff another company offers is an attractive proposition, as saving every month on your bills will soon add up. Even though there are reports on price collusion every now and then, it’s generally possible to get a better deal than the one you currently have.

 

Most utilities companies subcontract reps through third parties to call directly at your door to offer you a new contract. These reps are assigned a specific area per day and are changed from town to town, so it’s unlikely you’ll see the same one twice.  Phone companies tend to use call centres, making it more difficult for people with a limited level of Spanish to understand (coupled with the usual tremendous background noise!). Here’s an example of a typical conversation with a utilities rep who calls at your door:

–  I’d just like to check your electric / gas bill

–  Why?

–  Just to ensure you’re on the best tariff

–  [That’s nice of them, how helpful – you fetch the latest bill]

–  Oh dear, you’d be a lot better switching to X company with our tariff, plus we’ll give you a 30% discount on the fixed monthly quota and a 5% discount on the variable part during the next 12 months with a guarantee of a fixed rate if there is any rise in prices during the next 24 months.

–  Well, that sounds really interesting – let me think about it and …

–  Oh, I’m sorry I’m only in this area today.

–  OK, well I’ll think about it and phone the company.

–  No, it’s a special offer only for the people in this area….

The aim is to get you to sign there and then. First thing to notice – a large discount on the fixed part of a utilities contract sounds great but is only a matter of maybe 1 or 2 euros a month and the discount on the variable part may not be on the tariff that’s most favourable to you.  How many of us actually read a utilities contract before signing it? The problem lies in that what you’ve been told verbally will probably not be reflected in the contract. The reps are playing with the following: (a) they’ll probably not be with the company in a few months’ time (b) it can be argued that you “misunderstood” the verbal offer (c) most people won’t remember to check their bills anyway.

Phone companies have similar tactics promising special rates for the first 6 months if you change company or, to stay with the same company, additional perks. For example, if you have a landline and internet package with one company at a monthly rate considerably above what the competition is offering, you’ll probably be offered free calls to mobiles at weekends if you sign up for another 18 months. However, you should always think before you agree as making calls to mobile numbers from your landline (which will usually be limited to a maximum number of minutes per month) may not add up to the 10/15€ difference in monthly rate on your existing phone and internet package, especially taking into account that most people have free weekend calls on their mobiles anyway.

If your Spanish is good enough, or if you have a friend who’ll help you, the best idea is always to call the phone company and “haggle” – in other words threaten to go with one of the competitors unless they reduce your current monthly rate. This may or may not work, but the idea is to get what you really want and not what they want to give you. If it doesn’t work then you can contemplate swapping to another company anyway. Bear in mind that this tactic may work with the phone companies, but you won’t be able to haggle with the electric or gas companies.

In conclusion, any “offer” needs to be thought over before agreeing to it, either with the rep in your home or over the phone, as the majority of offers aren’t as good as they seem at first. If you can check the contract, do so, and question any discrepancies. Also, for utilities, call the company whilst the rep is with you and verify the terms and conditions of the offer, if it’s not 100% the same then don’t sign.