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Small Portland Cellular Provider Teams Up With AARP

A relatively small Portland-based wireless phone company has gotten a big boost. It's just inked an exclusive deal to provide affordable cell phone plans to AARP members.  Pete Springer reports.

Portland’s Consumer Cellular has about a quarter million customers and fewer than a hundred employees in its main office. 

AARP has almost 40 million members nationwide.

So the news of an exclusive deal with AARP is huge for Consumer Cellular.

It's  offering AARP members a five-percent discount on services, thirty percent off accessories, and a selection of easy to use cell phones requested by many older Americans.

John Marick is CEO of Consumer Cellular.

John Marick: “You know, they’re not looking to be having the latest and greatest phone or using some of the confusing aspects of the technology.  They just want to be able to pick it up, make a few phone calls if there’s an emergency or if they’re checking in, you know the convenience factor, and so that’s where our service works out real well for them.”

Consumer Cellular is also one of the few wireless providers that do not require contracts — something that AARP officials say sealed the deal.

Howard Byck is a spokesman for AARP.  He says many AARP members were frustrated by contracts required by the major wireless providers.

Howard Byck: “Difficult, hard to understand contracts with hidden charges, frankly very difficult to extricate, lacking flexibility so really when we put our consumer protection advocacy hat on, this particular industry was of great interest to our members and particularly the most vulnerable members, the older members.”

Byck says obviously not all members of AARP – which is open to anyone over 50 – want simple cell phones without extra features. 

But he says AARP is an advocacy organization that hopes to leverage its massive membership to bring about change in the way the wireless industry operates.

Byck says Consumer Cellular was a perfect fit.

Howard Byck: “The idea of providing low cost, simple, flexible calling plans for our members and protecting their interests from a consumer protection advocacy perspective — we’re just, we’re thrilled.  We think this is a giant step in the right direction.”

Consumer Cellular operates on the AT&T wireless network, which covers ninety-seven percent of the U.S. population.

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