A modern phone bill is a confusing mess and deciphering one can be a daunting task even
for phone company representatives, as you may find when calling to get an
explanation of one or more of the charges on your bill. Every bill, even from the
same local phone company will be different, so it is impossible to cover every charge
you may find on your bill. Never be intimidated about the long waits on hold
if you don't understand a charge on your bill. Call the provider's toll-free
number (always listed on the bill) and put them on your speakerphone while you
handle other matters until a live person answers. Don't have a speakerphone yet?
Everybody needs one these days and you can get high quality name brand models for
less than $20. Let us know if you need help obtaining a good deal on one.
All bills have some things in common. You will have at least one provider who sends
the main bill for local service and may furnish all (almost always a bad idea) your
phone services, including local dial tone, local-toll calls, calling card, inbound
toll-free numbers, intrastate, interstate, and international long distance, and even Internet and
other optional services. The separate charges for each will be (or should be)
detailed line by line on your bill. It is important for you to understand
exactly what each charge is for, whether it is justified, and if you really
have to pay it, or if optional, whether you want it.
There will be some type of charge for basic local service. This will be the
cost of simply providing you with local dial tone and a connection to a network
for at least receiving long distance calls. The cost of this can vary considerably
and may be as little as $6 or $7 to more than 10 times that. The local charge usually
includes a few items that may not be listed separately, but are commonly itemized.
At least 4 of these will be found on almost everyone's basic local service bill these
days. They are the basic dial tone charge, touchtone fee, FCC approved Customer Line
charge, and in most areas a number portability service charge, even if you do not yet
have number portability in your area. You will also have charges for your local
options like non-published listing, call waiting, caller ID, and many others.
Your local service can be flat rate or metered. You will need to determine which of these
will provide you with the cheapest overall local service if both are available. Charges
will be itemized differently depending on the plan you use. You may see only the
flat fee for service, a couple of lines detailing the total number of local calls,
or many pages of individually listed items, one for each local call you have made.
In any event, the bottom line of your total local charges is the important figure to
keep in mind when comparing services and even companies, as most of us now have a choice
of local service providers. You can usually find a list of some of them in the front
of your local phone book.
In addition to the charges for the local and optional services you have ordered, there
will be a list (sometimes a very long list) of other fees, charges, and taxes,
allowed or mandated by government or other regulatory agencies. You will almost always
at least have charges for 911 service, some type of state and or municipal fee(s),
and of course taxes. The state and municipal fees use a variety of names. A few
are given names like state USF, municipal utility charge, poison control center surcharge,
disability services fee, emergency response fee, rural access fee, and many others too
numerous to mention. It is a good idea to look over each line of all bills,
and if you spot anything new, call the phone company and ask what the charge is for.
If you don't get a satisfactory answer, call your Public Utility Commission.
You will also have areas on your bill, unless these are separately handled by other
companies on different bills, for local-toll calls, in state calls, interstate calls,
and possibly calling card and toll-free charges. Some of these will be subject to
PICC and USF charges which may be itemized or simply included in the per minute rate
you pay for these various services. NOTE: In July 2000 the PICC was offically discontinued.
Some providers have continued to charge this but changed the name to a PIC fee. This
may be charged on multiple residential lines or often for business lines. You can
see the details of each plan by using our Custom Rate Computer
and comparing ALL the charges. The FCC allows the local provider to charge fees
either directly to you or indirectly through your long distance provider(s) for the costs
of connecting your local lines to the long distance networks and a laundry list of
other reasons (excuses) the charges are needed and justified. In some cases your long distance
provider will pad these fees as a means of increasing revenue. This is allowed by law
and is often used as a way of hiding charges that otherwise would have to be declared
as monthly fees.
The main point of going into all this is to emphasize that while the phone bill has quite
a few charges and many are ambiguous and questionable, you should understand what each
is for, and whether you really have to pay it. As stated earlier, call your providers
and make them explain each and every charge to your satisfaction. You may have to pay most
of them for the time being, but if we all just accept anything that appears on our bills,
the plethora of charges will only increase. Check out the pages on this site with
links to the proper places to complain and make your voice heard. You can limit these
charges and lower your rates by complaining. California used to have some of the highest
local and in state rates in the country, but after citizen complaints and lobbying,
they now have some of the lowest.
You may be surprised to find out how much you can reduce your bill by simply complaining
to the phone company itself. Often your local provider is merely passing on charges it
has been billed by other companies, which may not even be legitimate. You can sometimes
get these removed immediately or placed on hold so you don't have to pay them until
some type of dispute resolution has been effected. Many times disputing any charge
will allow you to demand its removal later when the company responsible for the charges
ignores your protest through incompetence or oversight. Even though they are among the
most detested of all service providers in the country, phone companies historically
have been one of the best in attempting to amicably resolve legitimate customer
complaints. DON'T HESITATE TO DEMAND YOUR RIGHTS.
If you have an interesting story about your attempts to decipher a bill charge
or resolve a dispute, let us know by using the form below. If you have a uniquely
named charge that you have verified as being legitimate (or especially if NOT legitimate) on one of your bills,
we'd like to hear about it.
You may send a request for information or order any of our plans by simply filling out
the form below. We can contact you by E-mail if you desire, although
we actually prefer to speak to you directly at your convenience.
We don't ask for any personal information over the Internet so just leave your name,
phone number and the best time to call, or leave only your name and E-mail
address if you don't want a return call. Leave any message you may have in the
text box at the bottom and press the submit button. You are not signing
up for any plan by filling out this form, nor are you obligated to accept anything
if we call.
You may also contact us by a variety of other methods, including a direct Net Phone
call (or voice-mail) over the Internet, an alphanumeric page, call us directly toll-free at
one of the numbers below, or fax us your bill for free analysis. You will almost
definitely get diverted to a voice-mail system during business hours as we REFUSE to
make people wait on hold for more than a minute. We will call you back at your
convenience at any time you specify if we can't take your call immediately.
Henton Communication Enterprises
24 Hour Bill Faxing Line
Toll-Free US Voice Calls Only