Cagey Consumer

An Open Letter to Egghead Software About PhoneMiser

I am very disappointed to read the press release that you are going to be offering the Phone Miser product.

Although the marketers of PhoneMiser lead you to believe that PhoneMiser searches from among a vast array of long distance providers each time you place a call, it appears to be closer to the truth to state that PhoneMiser selects the same carrier for all interstate calls, namely, the carrier that the PhoneMiser marketers have contracted with.

The monthly "database update" fee is evidently fraudulent, in that you cannot avoid this fee by not updating the database, if you want to continue to use PhoneMiser. If you do stop the database update, you become ineligible for the rates offered through PhoneMiser.

Furthermore, when the monthly fee is factored in, the promised savings evaporate, when compared to long distance rates offered by other major carriers.

PhoneMiser promoters claim that

If your phone bill is $60 per month or more, and you have a typical $.25 peak, $.10 off-peak calling plan, PhoneMiser should pay for itself in about 2 or 3 months...

In fact, customers on such a rate plan probably make almost all of their calls during the off-peak period, when the PhoneMiser savings is only $.011 (1.1 cents) per minute. If somebody has a "$60 per month" phone bill, their long distance charges are likely to be about $40 per month, for 400 minutes of calling. The savings during the first 3 months would be only $4.40 a month, but once the database update fee kicks in, such customers would actually be spending more money than without the phone miser.

To actually recover the cost in 3 months (i.e. $33/month), customers would have to make 200 minutes a month of daytime calls. These customers would then have a $50 long distance bill, for a typical monthly phone bill of $70. But anybody making so many daytime calls would do much better with the 24-hour a day 15 cents a minute program from AT&T, in which case the savings would drop to $12.60 per month. They would do even better to pay a $4.95 monthly fee to Long Distance Wholesale Club, in which case their savings would drop to $7.15 for each of the first three months. But after that, the savings using PhoneMiser would be just $2.20 per month. At that rate, it would take an additional 35 months to recover the purchase price of PhoneMiser.

Given the discepancy between what PhoneMiser's marketers represent and what they actually deliver, I ask that you correct this misrepresenation by providing accurate information on the likely savings from using PhoneMiser adjacent to any display of the PhoneMiser product.

Thank you.

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