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BusinessIamA professional bill negotiator (a job I just made up). My brother and I quit our jobs and saved people (and cost Comcast & Friends) over $2,000,000. AMA!

Aug 17th 2017 by gadgetcopter • 24 Questions • 128 Points

I argue with telecom companies for a living to help save people money on their bills. If you’ve ever been furious at Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, you’ve probably got good reason. No one really loves these companies, and it’s because they’ve got some of the shadiest business practices around, including overcharging just about everyone on cable/internet/cell phones.

That's why my brother and I created BillFixers. We haggle with these companies for our customers, getting better rates/promotions/more data/whatever we can. We were tired of them getting away with their price gouging so now we fight back.

I’m here with my brother (u/gutenbergbible) to help give advice on how to negotiate with these companies to save money - without losing your mind. We specialize in telecom bills but we’ve worked on everything from airline refunds to business software. Turns out, just about everything is negotiable! Ask us anything!

Our Story

Three years ago, I was studying to be a lawyer, my brother was in college and working freelance as a graphic designer, and both of us were haggling with our cable companies 1,000 miles apart. We decided to start a side gig negotiating bills for fun, came up with the name BillFixers, and posted on r/entrepreneur, which blew up pretty much immediately.

These days, we’ve got a team of more than 20 people, including people who are better at negotiation, customer service, and development than we ever were, been featured in The New York Times (who called us ethically ambiguous) and NBC Nightly News, and we’ve negotiated more than two million dollars out of the pocket of companies like Comcast and AT&T and put it back into the pockets of their customers.

Proof: https://twitter.com/BillFixers/status/896156096242438144

More Proof: http://imgur.com/3xmpvJw

We want to help people get themselves better deals on their monthly bills and stop getting ripped off by these giant corporations. Ask us anything about dealing with your cable/internet provider, how to negotiate, net neutrality, or really whatever you want!

Q:

How much money do you make?

A:

Right now, nothing. Glamorous, I know. We've re-invested every cent we've made back into the business to help it grow.


Q:

Medical billing advocates charge between 25%-35% of what they save the customer.

A:

We haven't taken on medical billing yet (I want to make sure we know how to do it well before we offer it to anyone) but it's definitely something we want to do in the future. Have you tried any companies that do it? What could they improve on?


Q:

The emergence of your business seems like the exact sort of thing these big providers would want to stop from happening. Have you ever been approached by any of the major telecoms or have they made any attempt to get you to cease operations?

A:

Dish did send me five emails threatening to sue us if we didn't take their logo off our website (in a section listing people's "favorite" providers). Unfortunately for them, the logo remains.

However unless our internet going out regularly for a few months was intentional, there haven't been any clear attempts to get us to cease operations. I think if they do it'll make the problem much larger and more public, which is really our end goal anyway. It's a win/win from my perspective.


Q:

Is there a reasonable rate or do you just argue for as low as possible?

A:

It depends on the provider and the bill. Having done this so many times, we can kind of get a feel for how much the bill should be just by looking at the services. That said, plenty of times we've gotten lower rates than we expected, so we try not to be satisfied getting a 'reasonable' rate and go for as low as possible.


Q:

What sort of billing issue do you see the most/what sort of issues do you have the must success with (i.e., getting a concession from the company)?

A:

It depends on the provider for sure.

For cell phones, we used to run into a common problem (less so now) where they would be charging an extra $25/mo per line on the access fee for literally no reason other than that they could. It was a holdover policy from when they offered phone "subsidies" - they'd take $200 off the price of the phone up front and then charge $25/mo every month afterwards to make the money back. But then when they moved away from the subsidy model, they kept charging the $25/mo, even when people were paying full price for the phones. We were 100% successful fixing this.

For cable companies the main issue is people ask for help with is when a company increases a customer's price by 50-100% after the first year. This we can almost always solve as well.


Q:

What would we Look for on say a Verizon bill for this?

A:

On a Verizon bill, all of your costs are going to be broken down by line item. So, you're looking under each individual cell phone and then looking for what /u/napoleonpp was talking about, the "Smartphone Line Access."

If that's $20 like his is, you're golden. If it's $45 a month and you're not in a contract with a subsidized phone, you've got a problem. If it's higher than that, you've got a bigger problem!


Q:

Hopefully I'm not too late for this!! Verizon is charging me $20 a month for each phone (2 lines) on my plane for "Smartphone Line Access." I actually just noticed this yesterday.

We are currently still paying for the phones with monthly payments to Verizon. Are you saying they shouldn't be charging us the "Smartphone Line Access"?

A:

It depends on exactly what your situation is, but it sounds like that's probably legitimate. With Verizon, almost everything has a line access charge. $20 should be the right amount, but good to keep an eye out!


Q:

Any plans to expand beyond telecom into other services or utilities?

A:

Yep! We've been adding in services/utilities as fast as we can. We now do everything from gas/electric to newspapers to waste management. We also have been expanding the small business negotiations side of BillFixers to help with common business expenses like software, hosting, shipping expenses, you name it.

Only things we don't do yet are medical bills and credit cards/debt.


Q:

how many bills can your firm negotiate day?

A:

As many as you've got!


Q:

I'm paying Comcast $59.99 a month for 175 Mbps at a 1Tb limit. Am I being ripped off? I thought it was low in comparison to everyone I know. I can't wait for fiber to be available in my area.

A:

It could be worse. If that includes a modem, that's a decent price. If you've got your own modem and you're paying that, you might be able to save $10-15/mo. While 1TB isn't a particularly low cap (for a while they were doing 300GB, and still are in some places), the whole idea of caps is infuriating. It's just a new way they discovered to add fees.


Q:

Thanks for your answer. I'm definitely going to be telling everyone I know about your services. I've already bookmarked it ready to share

A:

I really appreciate it. We don't do a big advertising or marketing budget or anything like that, so word of mouth always means the world to us and lets us keep fighting these guys!


Q:

This may have already been asked, but did you finish law school and pass the bar? If so, do you ever threaten companies with legal action or cite consumer protection laws in your work? Or do you really try to stay away from all that?

A:

I did! Graduated in 2015 and passed the bar that year.

Unfortunately, legal action takes way too long for most people, and the amounts are so small it isn't really worth it for anyone involved. My hope is that once we get larger, we'll have enough customers behind us that we'll be able to leverage those more effectively.


Q:

Very cool. Attorneys have always impressed me with their ability to think through very complicated problems, very quickly...I imagine that skill comes in handy when dealing with Comcast and others.

Also, looking through your staff directory on your website, I've gotta ask -- is Justin Diliberto related to Johnny Mathis? The resemblance is uncanny.

A:

I will say I've never seen the two of them in the same place at the same time...


Q:

Do you guys have a website of your company ?

A:

Yep! I should have linked it more clearly in the post, but it's https://billfixers.com


Q:

Um, are you looking for more people passionate about negotiating with these evil companies? I always relish in my victories with cable/phone companies.

A:

Always! You wouldn't happen to be in the Nashville area, would you?


Q:

No, but I have a very fast internet connection. I even pay a semi reasonable price for it since I call Comcast every year to upgrade my service for a price reduction.

It would almost feel like I'm there with you. I even have a lovable sarcastic wit about me.

A:

Lovable sarcastic wit is one of our core company values. We're mostly looking for people locally but feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected] and we can talk.


Q:

Comcrap just raised my bill by $5 a month for the same service. What can I do to negotiate back to the same rate or even lower rate? What is my leverage?

A:

Your leverage is the business that you're giving them! The most effective way to negotiate that bill back down is going to be to call 'em up and threaten to cancel.

They may try to get away with just offering you a free channel or a free upgrade etc etc, but neither of those will decrease your bill (and actually might increase it in the future). Don't give in until they offer you money off your bill every month.

(Also, if they raised it $5 this month it might mean they're stepping you up to an even higher rate next month. They'll often do it gradually so you don't notice a huge increase in any given month.)


Q:

Be very careful about getting into their new "unlimited" plan, since you usually can't go back once you do. AT&T and Verizon both have the same policy, that if an individual line goes over 22GB of usage in one billing cycle, that line will get slowed down. Also, check your actual data usage over the last 12 months (this is something we do for every customer). Consider what made you use more, and when you were able to use less. Pick a data plan that will work for your actual usage. Most people don't really need unlimited data (although the way they price their data caps is pretty awful in my opinion). Other than that, just be aware that most cell phone bills break down into these categories: Access fees, a flat fee for each line. Device payments, nowadays mostly an installment plan. Data plans, usually one plan for all the lines on the account, and taxes/fees. Plus any extras like caller ID, navigation, etc. that can almost always be replaced with free apps! Never let a salesperson tell you the prices in any other breakdown, because they'll always leave something out!

A:

u/BillFixers_Jake's tips here are solid! That "unlimited" thing where it throttles really applies to all the major players these days. I'd say to hang on to a grandfathered unlimited plan, but almost nobody has them anymore these days since AT&T jacked up the prices and pushed everybody off.

One additional thought that might be a little outside the box—AT&T has MVNOs (third party cell providers that use their network) at a significantly reduced rate. Companies like Cricket or Straight Talk (and much smaller, non namebrand ones) will be a better rate for the same network, unless you're committed to AT&T as a brand or have something specific with them.


Q:

My car insurance just went up. They are saying because more and more people are moving to my area that they are going to increase it by $30 a month! Do you guys deal with auto insurance?

A:

First of all, that's crazy! You'd think that having more people in the area would let them bring down prices.

We don't currently do car insurance - I'm copy pasting Ben's answer from above, but:

"I remember we did a couple of Geico accounts when we were testing out if insurance was viable, but the long and short of it is that there's not an easy answer.

With the major insurance players, there isn't the kind of individual level negotiation flexibility that you get with telecoms (or even with the smaller broker-types.) That being said, they do offer discounts on a million different pre-selected things though. So, make sure you check that you qualify for everything—you're probably a member of an organization that has discounts."


Q:

You guys are awesome! When I had Verizon Wireless, you guys negotiated a lower bill for me! I've since switched to Google Fi, and you mentioned that Google Fiber is the least shady company you work with. If more companies went to more fair and honest price structures (granted, that will never happen), what kind of business do you think you'd most like to transition to?

A:

Awesome - I'm glad we could help! How's Google Fi working for you? I wanted to switch to Google Fi myself but I'll have to wait until I get a new phone since it doesn't work with my current one.

We've always joked that our main goal is basically to make shady companies improve until we put ourselves out of business. I'd love to use some of what we've learned from this business to help improve medical billing and healthcare costs. It's an enormously important issue in the country that needs as many people helping as possible.


Q:

Hey man, what a great job you're doing! I have two questions.

I've been negotiating my internet bill for years, but last time I called, they called me out on threatening to cancel. They didn't use those words, but they pointed out all the times I had called to cancel. They still lowered my bill, but what is your opinion on this? You think they are "bluffing"? I find it hard to believe they will stop lowering my bill for trying too often. Any advice on what to say next time?

Also, somehow, during every year, the fees start creeping up again, any way to stop that? Its like my bill starts with what we negotiated and ends the year with what I began with.

A:

Fortunately, the penalty for them "catching" you is...nothing! (as you found out by them lowering the bill, despite that start!) Plus, even if they refuse, you can just call back and you'll likely speak with a rep who is more reasonable.

They're certainly bluffing.

Also, the reps get it. They have these same bills - they sympathize! That's why being friendly is so effective. They're likely already on your side.

Re: Bill Creep - this is tough. Really the best answer is to stay vigilant, as it sounds like you're doing. Another option is accepting a contract with your provider, which are not ideal if you prefer flexibility, but give you more assurance that the price will stay put (at least for the duration).


Q:

Your answer is so helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer me.

A:

Feel free to reach out anytime, happy to help!


Q:

How do I hire you?

A:

Hop over to our website! It's https://billfixers.com


Q:

Why are stuff like this so boring?

A:

Hey, caught your attention didn't it! But really, negotiating bills makes a lot of people's eyes glaze over, which is one of the main reasons they come to us!