Companies that can reliably outperform their competition have a huge leg up in a tight market. And drawing attention to that fact can be a great marketing strategy. Cellular provider T-Mobile is so confident in its low prices that it began a huge push this week, sending consumers to an independent search engine to check their prices against the competition. But now it looks like that search engine might not be entirely unbiased.

On Tuesday, T-Mobile USA announced a new campaign dedicated to helping consumers “find a wireless plan that has the best coverage and price for you - even if it’s not with us.”

Their new television ads, starring Catherine Zeta Jones, direct viewers to independent price comparison engine BillShrink to prove that T-Mobile has the best prices out there. The new spots are a huge vote of confidence in BillShrink and look like a great bit of free marketing.

The California based startup helps consumers minimize their bills and search for price performers in a variety of areas. They started out last year with only cellular provider comparisons, but have since raised $9 million in funding and have expanded to other sectors, such as gas rate and credit card fee comparisons.

The new campaign could be a huge boon in spreading BillShrink's brand recognition. In addition to the ads that name check the service, visitors to T-Mobile's website and brick and mortar stores can now get a "Mobile Makeover" from BillShrink to find cost saving recommendations for wireless plans.

It takes a lot of confidence to send consumers to the competition, but it can pay off in the end. If T-Mobile gets a reputation as the lowest price provider around, consumers could gravitate there without even verifying the veracity of their claim. But, as it turns out, the BillShrink might not tell them otherwise even if T-Mobile's prices don't check out.

Today TechCrunch did a few searches on the site, and found that no matter the criteria, BillShrink always chooses T-Mobile as the price performer:

"In every query we ran, where minutes, text messaging, data and other variables can be changed, T-Mobile came out as the top result that saved users the most money. In some queries T-Mobile took every result on the first page."

BillShrink and T-Mobile did not respond for comment this afternoon, but if it turns out that BillShrink is giving T-Mobile preferential treatment, this campaign could backfire for the cellular giant. And it is even more detrimental for BillShrink. Plenty of companies do online comparisons — Skydeck, Mint and doctorSIM to name a few. If it turns out the BillShrink's comparisons are biased in favor of their partner companies, it renders the service pretty useless to consumers trying to save money. No matter what Catherine Zeta Jones says about them.


T-Mobile sent the following response to our query this evening:"T-Mobile is so confident that we provide the best overall experience for a majority of Americans that we're willing to put our value to the test by pointing people to an independent source." They also included links to the following articles, which point out that T-Mobile did not always win the price performance test:

T-Mobile Plays the Value Angle

Catherine Zeta-Jones Is a Cheap Date

Meghan Keane

Published 21 May, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (2)


Peter Pham

Megan, I would have loved to talk to you, please reach out to us and I'd be happy to answer any question you have. We are absolutely unbiased and are completely transparent in our recommendation.

If you look at TechCrunch's update and my comments, they did in fact find other results. It was pure user error as they did not properly fill out an actual user scenario. We take into account coverage, minutes used, what network the people you call are on, as well as your current carrier and contract (which takes into account early termination fees and activation). And if you import your actual bill, we'll look at what time of day the calls are made, day of week etc, to look at night and weekend start/end times.

We take this very seriously and if you'd like to talk please do email us pr AT and i'll call you back immediately to discuss. 

We welcome anyone to challenge us on the accuracy of the recommendations, we list out top to bottom with every line item why one plan is better than the next, we have nothing to hide.


Peter Pham



about 9 years ago



Hi Meghan, nice article. I thought I'd respond by mentioning that I work for Validas, a truly independent wireless auditing company that slashes the average cell bill by 28 percent through our website, Unlike the competition, we do not work on a carrier commission-based business model. Instead, we charge five bucks per cell audit (although we'll analyze your bill first for free with no obligation to buy the service, just to let you know how much we could save you). This speaks to the key difference here: We fight for you rather than work with the cell companies. That's why you pay us.

You can see Validas in the national news media, most recently on Good Morning America.

Good luck to everyone reading on achieving the best rates possible.


about 9 years ago

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