Ever wonder why your $40 wireless plan actually costs you $50 or more a month? The cell-phone industry likes to claim that rates have fallen 32% since 1998 and that the culprits behind higher bills are government taxes, which average 12% nationwide and run as high as 19.6% in California. But companies have also jacked up an array of their own fees for all sorts of services you might expect to be free. Some examples:
--AT&T WIRELESS, CINGULAR, NEXTEL AND SPRINT PCS have raised directory-assistance fees from less than $1 to anywhere from $1.19 to $1.25 a call
--AT&T WIRELESS AND T-MOBILE bill you for airtime if you make a call that rings unanswered for 30 seconds.
--SPRINT PCS charges $5 to speak to an agent about paying with a credit card or making other arrangements, bills high-credit-risk customers $3 to get an agent on the line and bills for airtime when users press *4 to check how many minutes they have left
--VERIZON AND CINGULAR charge between 2¢ and 10¢ for junk e-mail--even if you don't read it.