Paying... to pay your bills

Online shopping made easy?

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

BILL RADKE: If you pay your bills on time, you are to be congratulated -- and possibly charged a fee. That's right, some lenders, telecom companies
and other providers will charge you a charge for paying what they charge you. Let's get an explanation from Los Angeles Times consumer columnist David Lazarus. Good morning, David.

DAVID LAZARUS: Good morning.

RADKE: Please explain.

LAZARUS: It's called pay-to-pay. It's remarkable.

RADKE: Pay-to-pay?

LAZARUS: The notion that you're being charged a fee to give them money is simply astounding. Let's look at some examples of this. Let's say you're running a little late with your mortgage payment or whatever, if you are to go Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and you want to use their automated phone system -- no human beings within sight -- $15.

RADKE: And this is not a late fee, this is just a charge for using their automated systems?

LAZARUS: Just a charge to pay your bill using automation. And when you talk to consumer advocates about what is the real cost of an automated transaction, a few cents, if that.

RADKE: Yeah, isn't that the point, part of the point of automation?

LAZARUS: To save money, exactly. And yet these guys are charging $15. I asked Chase, "How can you charge that much for an automated transaction?" They said, "Well, that's how much we charge." And you look at some of the other charges out there. For instance, this week Verizon Communications is introducing a new $3.50 charge if you pay your bill online, automated phone system, or to a service rep without using their recurring, automatic bill paying system.

RADKE: So that's unless you have it taken straight from your bank account, which some people don't like to do. I mean it feels a little insecure, right?

LAZARUS: Some people want to be in the driver's seat. It's that simple. And it's your money. You should be able to make that choice. Moreover, let's remember, you're giving your money to a company. That's what you're doing. They're in the business of receiving your money for a service provided. So the notion that a Verizon, for example, will tack on another $3.50 just because you're not paying them in the manner they would like to be paid -- it's extraordinary.

RADKE: So the only conclusion is pay attention and shop for that?

LAZARUS: Pay attention. Be sharp. And also complain because pay-to-pay is just ridiculous.

RADKE: We need more complaining, says Los Angeles Times consumer columnist David Lazarus.

LAZARUS: Thanks and pay up.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...