Starting January 30, Sprint is raising data rates by $10 a month for new phone activations. The rate increase will not apply to existing customer unless they upgrade or activate another smartphone. [More]
Despite the record-breaking heat in some parts of the country, total U.S. energy consumption this summer has actually fallen compared to 2009, and peak demand levels–when electricity consumption is at its highest–have dropped as well. [More]
The United States Postal Service is continuing its long slide into suckage according to a new report delivered by Postmaster General John E. Potter this morning. People sent far less mail last year (“more than double any previous decline,” says the Washington Post) and labor costs continue to rise, which helped the USPS lose $3.8 billion in 2009. [More]
This summer Californians will be able to vote on Proposition 17, which if passed will allow insurers to bypass some legal restrictions on how much they can charge for auto insurance. Mercury Insurance Group is a big proponent of the proposition, but maybe that’s because it’s been possibly sidestepping the law in recent years anyway. Hey, making it legal will just prevent another state report like the one Carla Marinucci at the San Francisco Chronicle obtained, which contains findings that Mercury “has engaged in practices that may be illegal, including deceptive pricing and discrimination against consumers such as active members of the military and drivers of emergency vehicles.” [More]
In Michigan, utilities can increase rates without first getting approval, but that means the Michigan Public Service Commission can later reduce them. That’s what happened on Monday, when the Commission ordered Consumers Energy to refund about $39.6 million to customers it overcharged since last May.
Chase just notified Greg that they’re more than doubling his minimum payment requirement. Because he and his wife are carrying such a large balance due to a promotional balance transfer offer a few years ago, this pushes their monthly payment to nearly $1,000.
Courey Gouker’s recent experience with American Express encapsulates every trick the company has pulled in the past few months to drive away their customers, including dropping the credit limit, hiking the rate, and even offering him a cash bonus to pay off his balance in full. In addition, the company’s CSRs made promises to him that they didn’t keep, and notes on his account have gone missing. About the only thing they haven’t done is email a photo of the CEO flipping him the bird.
UPDATE: We’re bad at Spanish. See below. We came across a Twitter user who, while browsing Comcast’s internet prices, discovered that the Spanish-language version of the site offers reduced speeds at the same prices as the higher speeds seen on the English version of the site. What the hell?
MP3newswire.net browsed through not-quite-hits from past decades on the iTunes Music Store to see where these fabled 69 cent music tracks are hiding. He tried the Katydids, Camper Van Beethoven, the Lyres, Rock and Roll Trio, but found nothing below 99 cents. Then he went back to be-bop and blues recordings of the ’40s—nope. Finally, he looked at songs from Ada Jones, a recording artist from 1893 to 1922. Everything was still 99 cents.
Say what you will about Apple’s dominion over the music industry, but for a while now they’ve maintained an artificially low market for music tracks by forcing labels to sell songs for 99 cents each. That era is over: in exchange for moving to a higher bitrate and going 100% DRM free (hooray) iTunes has officially introduced “variable pricing” (boo), which means each track may cost 69 cents, 99 cents, or $1.29—it all depends on the song and the label. It looks like Amazon has introduced variable pricing as well, although it’s mostly holding to the 99 cents threshold for now. Amazon’s tracks, by the way, have always been free of DRM.
Mortgage rates are at a record low of 4.78%, according to Freddie Mac. [Bloomberg]
Rumor confirmed: AT&T has indeed dropped the price of its unlimited data and messaging plan by $5—the new cost is $30/mo, and $10/mo to add a second phone under their shared family plan. Unless you plan on texting more than 200 messages a month, however, it’s not worth it (you can get unlimited data + 200 messages for $20). [Engadget Mobile]
Ryan pointed us to an article on Orbitcast about a rumored fee hike by Sirius XM. The increases appear to be for services that aren’t strictly protected by the FCC agreement, which is why they would legally be able to do this despite promises that they wouldn’t raise rates for 36 months after the merger.
Some customers who transferred their balances to Chase were hit with a new fee this month: a $10 monthly surcharge just for having the account in the first place. This $120 annual fee is pure profit for Chase and doesn’t get applied to the balance. Oh, and they’re doubling the minimum payment as well, although the sooner you pay off your Chase credit card and close it, the happier you’ll be.
If there’s one group of Americans who don’t carry their weight and need to pay more money to the healthcare industry, it’s those layabout senior citizens! That’s why their Medicare drug premiums are increasing by an average of 31% for the 10 most popular plans beginning in 2009. If you were with Humana, formerly the cheapest Medicare drug plan you could get (its premium was $9.51 in 2006), you can expect to pay $40.83 per month in 2009, an increase of 60% over this year’s rate. As you would expect, Humana is no longer the cheapest option—so it may be time to shop around for a new plan.
The similar price increases, coming at similar times, Kohl said, “is hardly consistent with the vigorous price competition we hope to see in a competitive marketplace.”