Expert's advice on lowering cable bill: Just ask

A Senate investigation will have you looking over your cable bill. It reveals Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications made no effort to trace equipment overcharges or refund customers.

When you sign up for cable, you often get a promotional deal - a free premium channel, for example. But then the timeframe expires and your bill jumps up.

The Senate's report reveals a phone call to the company can change that. Some companies actually trained their customer service reps to drop rates depending how mad someone gets. They referred to charts telling them what to offer, based on what a customer said, instead of simply revealing the lowest price available. That had Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri fuming.

"Nobody knows how to get the best prices from you guys. Nobody knows. There's some sort of secret sauce.... and I think it has to do with being really mad," she said, and described how she got a refund from her cable company simply by staying on the phone and arguing.

She said she wouldn’t have realized there was that much leeway if not for the Senate investigation.

“So, will you all make a commitment today to advertise the lowest price available?" she demanded from the cable companies at a hearing on Capital Hill. "Any of you? Will you publish it on your website - the lowest price available for services? Any of you?"

Her challenge was met with silence.

Charter agreed to provide customers with a one-year credit. Time Warner said it would provide a one-month credit, but it won’t look back further than that, unless a customer raises a specific concern.