Telecom Billing Issues – Better, Worse or Same?

I caught an article a couple of months ago which stated unauthorized phone charges cost Americans $2 billion per year. Check out the article that appeared on CNN. It primarily focuses on third-party billing abuses. While some of these charges can be legitimate, there have been many cases documented that show companies preying on the unsuspecting.

As a consumer, it’s fairly easy to control “cramming” of third-party solutions onto your bill. To do so, simply call your phone company and ask it to shut off “third-party billing.” This should do the trick for most land lines. You can also have a similar conversation with your wireless provider. It is far too easy to get charged for applications or additional services by texting or “accepting” an online agreement without clearly understanding the fine print.

Unfortunately, this is not just an individual consumer issue. Businesses of all sizes have been targeted for various kinds of fraud. At least the home consumer often knows what to expect when paying for service each month. If that relative constant changes from one month to the next, the person often becomes aware of the problem fairly quickly. With businesses, the problem is much more difficult to isolate as telecom bills can fluctuate dramatically from month to month.

The aforementioned article misses another common factor in billing errors. Other than cramming, there is a high incidence of “normal” billing errors to include lines that are still being billed after they were ordered to be disconnected, or coding errors and credits that were never properly applied. Companies often miss opportunities to reduce expenses not only because of their sheer size, but because multiple services ordered at different times make it extremely difficult to know what is really being utilized. It requires a lot of time, patience and understanding to complete a full audit to clean things up. Most IT and telecom staff members simply don’t have the time to go through every detail on the bill, nor do they have the depth of expertise to fully deal with all of these issues.

On the positive side, more attention has been given to these issues in the media and we see CFO’s, CIO’s and IT leadership in general much more aware, and often seeking assistance. Plus, most carriers now provide electronic billing information which can more readily feed a TEMS solution than in the past. Based on the issues our company has seen firsthand, I don’t think these problems have necessarily gotten any worse, but I don’t think they are any better, either. At least today there are superior tools and processes available to the industry to combat these problems.

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