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State

CUB: Illinois residents waste $1.4B on data plans

CHICAGO – Illinois residents using mobile phones are wasting $1.4 billion a year by signing up for the wrong cellphone data plan, according to a consumer advocacy group's study released Tuesday.

In a news release, the Citizens Utility Board said that the analysis found that the difference between the amount of data paid for and the amount actually used added up to about $194 a year for smartphone users and about $30 a year on traditional wireless phones. It found customers are on plans that give them more far more data than they use.

CUB said that the problem is the result of both a "chronic lack of customer education on choosing the right plan, and a cellphone industry that favors data plans with hefty flat monthly fees over a pay-for-what-you-use pricing structure."

The cellphone market in the United States is "in 'super size' mode, with many customers chained to plans that give them more data than they need," CUB Executive Director David Kolata said in a statement.

But a spokesman for AT&T Illinois said the company already strives to give the customers the information they need to make an informed decision.

"Finding the right voice and data package for our customers is as important to us as it is to them," said AT&T Illinois' Eric Robinson.

And the main trade group for cellphone companies agreed. "With all of these choices, consumers need to pick a wireless service plan that fits their needs, and carriers are happy to help consumers make the right decision," Jamie Hastings, of CTIA-The Wireless Association.

Kolata recommended a number of ways that customers can reduce their cellphone costs. For example, customers of AT&T, Sprint and Verizon can log onto CUBCellphoneSaver.com that features a new online service offered by Validas, the wireless industry research firm that worked with CUB on the study.

According to Kolata, the service, called 'Save Love Give,' offers customers a way to save an average of $300 a year just by switching to a better plan with the carrier they now have.

CUB also recommends doing things like turning off apps after using them and setting smartphones to use Wi-Fi, which cuts down on data usage, whenever possible. CUB also suggests customers switch from contract plans to prepaid plans.

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