There are a lot of different charges on a monthly phone bill. It can make it hard to understand. The FCC estimates that cramming, placing unauthorized charges on a telephone bill, has harmed tens of millions of American households. Read your bill and learn about your rights to avoid a costly surprise.
Review Your Bill
Mistakes and unauthorized charges can creep into your account if you don’t review your monthly phone bill. It is especially true if you need to get set up for autopay.
Another common problem that can happen is “cramming.” It occurs when a company charges unauthorized telephone bills for services or products you never ordered or received.
These unauthorized charges can go undetected for months and sometimes even years. They can appear as small “mystery charges” of only $1, $2 or $3. When you dispute unauthorized charges, discuss them with your service provider and the third-party company. Then ask for the amount to be removed or for a refund.
The Federal Communications Commission has received tens of thousands of complaints about bills that need to be clarified or for charges from companies you didn’t order. To combat this, the FCC requires that all accounts be easy to understand, have fewer pages, and feature clear explanations of all charges. An FCC initiative called Lifeline lets lower-income consumers get communications services at a lower cost. Customers of Lifeline receive a discount on the eligible monthly telephone, broadband Internet, or voice-broadband bundles from partnering landline or cellular carriers. Via the Lifeline government program, some providers provide free phones. Generally speaking, trade-in limitations aren’t restricted from this program. Carriers sometimes provide trade-in promotions where you may receive discounts on the device you’re moving to, so if, after having your free phone for a while, you decide you’d rather have a newer (or better) handset. In this way, if you’re struggling to pay your phone bills, a free mobile phone service from the government is available to anybody enrolled in one of the following programs: Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance, and Tribal-specific programs.
Contact Your Service Provider
When you have a billing dispute, contacting your service provider is essential. It can be done either through an online chat or a phone call.
During the call, explain the charges in dispute to the customer care specialist. Be polite and avoid being accusatory.
If you believe a charge on your bill is not legitimate, ask for it to be removed or credited back to your account. You may need to prove that the cost is unauthorized or not what it says it is.
Be sure to save a copy of your bill and take careful notes during your discussion with the representative. You can always refer to this when calling them again if necessary.
If you cannot resolve your dispute with the company, you can contact an agency that helps settle complaints. Several federal agencies have representatives who are trained to resolve billing disputes, and there are also elected local officials and private consumer groups that can assist you.
Explain the Charges in the Dispute
If you’re disputing a charge, it’s essential to be clear on the charges in dispute. If you are not, your service provider may be unable to resolve the issue, and an argument can end up in arbitration or small claims court.
It is also essential to be calm and polite when you explain the charges in dispute. Customer service specialists are there to help you, and they may be more sympathetic if you do not appear accusatory or defensive.
When you call to dispute charges on your phone bill, you will be put through a touch-tone prompt maze before being connected to a representative. It can be frustrating, so having a pen and paper before you write down the representative’s name and any other relevant information is a good idea.
After you explain the charges in dispute, ask the customer service specialist to waive or reduce them according to your expectations. Usually, this will result in a partial credit for the charges. However, this can depend on whether the costs are valid or due to your oversight.
Have a Pen and Paper Ready
A pen and paper are among the essential things when handling phone bills. It is especially true if you are trying to dispute your account with your service provider. Having a pen and paper ready will help you write down any important information you may need later on, such as the name of the representative you spoke to during your call or when you called them. Additionally, it will allow you to log your calls and dates so that you have a record of them when you are looking to dispute your bill with your provider.