Handy Tips: Checking Your Telco Bills

Telecommunications overcharging in the business space is exceptionally common, and constant vigilance is essential. Today I’m going to look at some ways to check your own rates.

As part of many of Dog and Bone’s core services –Audits, Reviews, Support Services – we conduct what we term Rates Verifications. In essence, we check to see that you’ve been billed as per your agreed-upon rates. It’s quite straight-forward, and we suggest everyone does it regularly, or employs someone to do it for them.

To do this, we merely take the client’s currently contracted rates, and then apply them to existing billing data. (That word ‘merely’ of course conceals a lot of work, and is possible only via a very complicated software system.) If the contracted rates have been applied correctly, then the discrepancy in our results from the actual phone bill will be negligible (there’s always some small rounding errors, resulting from the different ways each telco calculates charges). If, however, there is a significant difference, then we know that an issue has occurred. More often than not, there is a difference, and therefore an issue. You might not be surprised to know that overcharging is far more common than undercharging, although this is by no means rare. Today we successfully obtained a backdated account credit of $137,000 for a single client, based entirely on previous overcharges.

Now, the Dog and Bone Analyser enables us to efficiently work out the full extent of billing errors, but it is also possible for you to conduct a reasonable assessment of your own account. Here are some simple things to look out for.

1. Call Rates. This is the most obvious one. In order to find out what a call should cost, simply multiply the call rate by the call duration (expressed in minutes), and add any flagfall.

For example, say you have a call rate of $1 per minute, with a 40 cent flagfall:

  • A 1 min call should cost $1.40 ((1 x 1.00) + 0.40)
  • A 2 min call should cost $2.40 ((2 x 1.00) + 0.40)
  • A 1 min 15 sec call should cost $1.65 ((1.25 x 1.00) + 0.40)

2. Billing Increment. If you have negotiated  ‘per second’ billing, yet your details are showing call durations in 30 second or 60 second intervals, you can be fairly sure you aren’t receiving the correct billing increment. Large billing increments can have a dramatic effect on call charges.
For example, using the above call rates, but with per 30 second billing:

  • A 1 min 15 sec call should cost $1.90 ((1.5 x 1.00) + 0.40)

3. Plan Charges. You should verify that every mobile is only the correct plan. Sometimes carriers will change mobile plans within a fleet. Often this is done with good intentions, and sometimes even for good reasons, but it can also lead to wasting money.

4. Service and Equipment Costs. Always check your line rentals and other equipment costs. We have found that line rentals are often covered under SFOA (Standard Form of Agreement) provisions. When these standard rates change, your rate is changed, regardless of whatever was in your original agreement. For example, Telstra changed the SFOA rate on most of its S&E extras last year, without telling anyone. Unfortunately you will have to check each charge individually.

5. Charity Rates. Charities should always check to see they are receiving any discounts to which they are entitled. Be aware that Telstra charity PSTN line rental charge is lower than the not-for-profit rate. Sometimes charities are placed on the higher rate without being consulted.


6. Keep an Eye Out for Anything Unusual. This sounds a bit vague, but we really have seen some odd stuff on client’s bills, and it’s hard to compile a list that would include everything. Obviously any unexplainable service you’re adamant you didn’t ask for shouldn’t be paid for, and should be raised with you provider. This can often include premium services that staff insist they haven't used.

If you have multiple accounts, check that each account is actually one of yours. Believe it or not, we’ve found one company's account tagged to the account list of accounts for an entirely unrelated company. Neither had any idea of the other's existence. Usually there will be a similarity in the names, suggesting that the account executive made a simple error when the accounts were created.

I’ll add to this list as more things occur to me.