Consumer Confidential: Netflix price hike, AT&T-backed Kindle, Chrysler Ram recall

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Here’s your way-we-were Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Netflix is a very cool service. It’s also now a more expensive service -- and many of its 23 million customers aren’t happy. Netflix is raising its prices by as much as 60% for those who want to rent DVDs by mail and watch video on the Internet. The company is separating the two options so that subscribers who want both will have to buy separate plans totaling at least $16 per month. Netflix had been bundling both options in a single package, available for as low as $10 per month. New subscribers will have to pay the new prices immediately. The changes take effect Sept. 1 for Netflix’s current customers. Netflix isn’t changing the $8 monthly price for an Internet streaming-only option. Subscribers rankled by the latest price increase are venting their outrage in comments on Netflix’s blog as well as its Facebook page, where there are about 17,000 comments, mostly negative.

-- If you don’t mind ads with your literature, Amazon has a new deal for you. The online retailer says it’s struck a sponsorship deal with AT&T to sell a less expensive version of its Kindle 3G digital reader. The Kindle 3G, which allows users to buy electronic books without having to subscribe to a wireless network, costs $189. The AT&T sponsored device, which will include built-in ads on its screensavers, will cost $139. Amazon in April introduced built-in advertising from companies such as General Motors’ Buick, Procter & Gamble’s Olay and Visa on a different version of the Kindle, which competes with devices such as Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iPad tablet. I’m thinking it’s nice that prices for these gadgets are coming down, but one reason I enjoy books is because they allow me to escape the commercial clutter of everyday life.

-- Chrysler Ram pickup trucks have a reputation for being tough. But maybe not tough enough. Chrysler is recalling more than 242,000 Ram trucks because of a problem in the steering system. The recall affects certain Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickups from the 2008 to 2011 model years. The Ram is Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a part near the left wheel can fracture and cause loss of steering control, leading to crashes. The problem happens mainly at low speeds when drivers are making tight turns. Chrysler says only a few minor crashes and one minor injury have been reported. Chrysler dealers will inspect the trucks and fix the defect for free if necessary.


-- David Lazarus