Experts

4 errors to look for on your next telecom bill

Learn how to read your next telecom bill to make sure you’re paying for what you need

By Jeff Olson
Friday, December 4, 2015

Ahh, your trusty telecommunications bill. You can count on these to arrive every month the same way you expect Harry and Sally to live happily ever after.

What do you typically do when the bill arrives?

If you’re like most businesses, you open it, pay it, then move on with your day. You don’t take any extra time to review it line-by-line or make sure it matches what your contract stated. You might take a spare second to make sure the amount is roughly the same as last months – but that’s only if you have a second to spare.

If this sounds like your process, you are likely overpaying for your telecom services. Here’s a quick and easy example I find FAR too often:

Let's say you get charged 3.5 cents per minute for 800 number calls. In your first month you used 1,000 minutes and you got charged $39.

Wait a minute… at 3.5 cents that should only be $35.

This time it’s only $4 – but that can add up very quickly as time goes on. I encourage you to take a few moments next time your telecom bill arrives and look a little closer.

“BUT, I CAN’T READ IT ANYWAY”

Now, this I completely understand; if you want to understand the items listed on your bill you’ll need to learn a new language!

All telecom carriers bill their customers differently. Some break the bill down line-by-line, others simply list the lump sum you owe. Each will call a simple phone line something different and they all have names for their phone line packages - which you’ll never remember what they actually mean.

Despite what you might think, you don’t need to learn a new language to recognize some of the most common errors on your telecom bills.

BEFORE YOU START, YOU NEED TO KNOW…

What you sign on your contract is not what will appear on your bill. You should expect your bill to be higher, because it will include taxes, regulatory fees, usage charges and surcharges, which aren’t outlined in the initial proposal from the telecom carrier. You might, for example, sign a contract and expect to pay $531 a month, but your first bill comes in at $664.

In this example, you can see the total bill is more than $100 higher than the contracted amount because the taxes came in at $55+ and other fees came in at $77+. While this unexpected spike should raise a red flag, this is usually very common.

One thing you should look for, while the flag is raised and your attention is on your bill, is the discount you were promised in your proposal.

DISCOUNT APPLICATION

Most telecom carriers offer significant discounts, especially to first time buyers, to make their prices seem low. When you get your bill, make sure your discount is applied – and applied correctly. This is especially important in the very beginning, because typically, once it’s applied it will never change.

Description: telephone company bill - discount application

TOTAL AMOUNT DUE

This is usually the easiest error to catch, because you expect to pay roughly the same amount every month. As you’ll see in this example, the previous balance was $1,120, and this month’s balance is $558. Your immediate thought should be, why is there a difference?

My guess is that this business paid their bill late, so they had to pay two months plus any late fees. But, if that’s not the case, you’ll need to inquire about the drastic spike the month before.

PACKAGE DEALS – COMPLEX LINE ITEMS

Most telecom carriers make their bills complex intentionally. And, unfortunately, most companies don’t take the time to review the bill for that very reason. Here’s a prime example:

Description: Screen_Shot_2015-11-05_at_3.57.45_PM.png

My question to this business would be – did you know you have two different phone lines? Do you know what the difference is?

In this case, the difference is that one line is unlimited long distance and the other is not. So on one phone line you get charged for long distance and on the other you don’t. My next question would be – did you know that your phone lines were set up that way? And, are you using them accordingly?

A side note on long distance calls, while we are on the subject... You’ll never see on your bill what you get charged per minute. You have to do the calculation – and to make it even trickier, and likely discourage you altogether, is that every carrier charges at different increments; you could be billed at 30, 18 or 6 seconds, or they might charge one fee for the initial 18 seconds and a different one for every 6 seconds thereafter. The combinations are endless. This fact is also not listed on your bill – you’ll likely have to dig through your contract if you want this information.

LUMP SUM

While this may be refreshing to see after the previous example – this over-simplified bill is equally helpless.

So, the Internet is $49.95, but what is this organization actually paying for? What speed? How much? What does PERFORMANCE PLUS mean? 20MB … 50MB … 100MB?

The complex bills are unreadable and the simple bills are useless. In terms of telecommunication bills, it’s hard to win without the help of someone who can “speak the language”. And, unfortunately the rep that sold you services likely doesn’t care about you past the initial sale. Their job is to sell services, not make sure you are satisfied. After all, they’ve got you locked in for at least 36 months.

The only way to make sure you order what you need, get what you pay for and have someone available to call with questions or discrepancies on your bill (throughout the entire contract) is through a telecom consultant. If you are interested, compare telecom consulting services with your current carriers, and you’ll quickly see which is right for you.

Download this comparison chart to see the differences between the services and support offered by carrier providers and carrier agents. 

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