I remember the first time I went on a cruise… I expected to be kicking back, eating all the food I could stuff into my mouth, having a few laughs and stopping off on a bunch of ideal, little islands – all for one all-inclusive price.
It didn’t take long for my rage glands to jump into overdrive when I discovered the cruise line was charging me a daily parking fee at the port, a fuel surcharge (presumably to fuel the ship), a “Wait Staff and Housekeeping Service Fee” as well as “Government Tax and Other Fees.” When the dust cleared, forty-six percent of my final expenditures had gone to unadvertised, miscellaneous junk fees.
It’s likely your telecom invoice is not much different. After all, we’re accustomed to having to pay miscellaneous fees as consumers—used oil disposal fees, airline carry-on baggage fees, a whole host of mortgage closing fees and many others. Businesses know we’ve become desensitized to the blood letting, so they’ve become more aggressive in adding new fees and increasing the existing ones.
Junk Fees Are Creating Lawsuits
Lawsuits over junk fees, and misrepresentation of what fees actually pay for, abound. Frontier, a broadband provider, is being sued by plaintiffs who claim they are being billed for certain state and federal taxes, 911 surcharges even though they do not apply to broadband service. “It is merely a junk fee that Frontier imposes on customers,” the lawsuit says. “The fee bears no relationship to any governmentally imposed fee or regulation, and is nothing other than an effort by Frontier to increase prices above the advertised price.”
The suit, filed in 2011 finally went to court in August, 2015. In 2011, the website TheBillPolice.com reported that 300 million wireless customers collectively pay $155 billion in fees in addition to their standard voice and data plan costs.
Junk Fees Pay for the “Cost of Doing Business”
Even more annoying is that telcoms charge fees even beyond that $155 billion for their costs of doing business. One Verizon wireless subscriber reports paying nearly $13 per month for a “Federal Subscriber Line Charge,” (which goes directly to Verizon’s bottom line). According to the FCC, “This fee is regulated and capped by the FCC, not by state Public Utility Commissions. It is not a tax or a fee charged by the government. The money received from the subscriber line charge goes directly to local telephone companies.”
So what can you do?
Taking on multi billion dollar telecom companies to dispute junk fees without an expert in your corner usually isn’t the most productive use of your time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though: Because over-billing and junk fees have become so commonplace, a slew of companies specializing in telecom invoice and contract auditing have sprung up in the last few decades.
These audit firms specialize in finding billing errors, recover funds and credits, and correct future billings. Many work on a contingency basis with no upfront costs to retain their services.
Here are a couple options:
An even better solution
For many organizations there’s an even better solution for eliminating junk fees though. VoIP offers an alternative that is largely devoid of fees and taxes, including the junk fees the traditional telecom giants use to line their pockets.
While E911 regulatory fees and state taxes are often levied by local government responsible for emergency response, there are no federal taxes on VoIP communications services. If you’d like to learn more about how VoIP can eliminate junk fees, feel free to contact us.