Cell phone customer are frequently shocked when their first bill arrives and it is hundreds of dollars more than expected. It is usually the parents who are have their kids on their plans that are the most surprised.
The standard cell phone plan has a few hundred “anytime minutes” and free night and weekend minutes for $30 to $50. These plans do not usually include text messaging or internet access. Chances are they don’t push you to buy these additional luxuries because you get them anyways.
For example, if you didn’t add the text message option to your plan, you will still be charge for each text message that you sent and received – even if you didn’t read the message. That also includes text messages from your carrier. You usually get charged for that as well.
Or what about when your son browses the Internet and download a ringtone to their cell phone. You get charge for that as well.
And its all in the fine print of those nice agreements that they ask you to sign while you are too busy checking out your new phone. So if you don’t want to get these nice surprise make sure you call the cell phone company and tell them to turn off all text messaging and Internet access on your Cell phones. This will help you avoid getting some nasty unexpected phone bills.
Accordingly to the CTIA, an organziation that represents the wireless industry, based on data compiled in the last 6 months:
- The average cell phone bill in June 2009 was $49.57, up more than a buck from June 2008;
- The average length of a voice call was just 2.03 minutes, shorter than any other year since the CTIA started keeping records in 1988;
- There are about 276,610,580 wireless subscribers in the U.S., up about 14 million from last year, and more than double the number in 2002;
- The various wireless carriers (or at least the ones who reported figures to the CTIA) raked in $151.2 billion in revenue from June 2009 to June 2008
Even though most companies would list the phone bill as one of their top expenses, few take the time to have someone look over the bill for errors. A study found that 80 percent of U.S. businesses have errors on their phone bills that are never found or reported.
The problem comes from the long-standing system phone companies use to track their services and billing. The system is split into two sections: The section that keeps track of what services a customer has, and the section that bills the customers. “The process itself is inherently faulty,” says professional Frank Stoczko. “It’s quite often the case that there’s faulty entry between the two systems, which results in faulty billing.” Stoczko says a customer may get a feature (such as caller ID) and then cancel it, but the phone company may only cancel it from the service section of the billing system. Then, customers are being charged for a service they no longer have.
According to Stoczko, billing errors have been occurring since the dawn of telecommunications, and certain phone providers can be almost relied on to make trademark mistakes. “As soon as I see who the telephone company [on the bill] is, I look for those specific things, because, invariably, those kinds of errors are repetitive; they happen quite often,” he said.
Without actually stating that phone companies make these erroneous charges on purpose, Stoczko does point out that it is in the phone companies’ interest to allow these mistakes to be made. ” [Telecoms] will just let mistakes go and wait for clients to come back and ask for a refund for that money,” he said. “They will pay them that money, while the other customers’ [overcharges] will just be pocketed.”
However, some of the phone companies overcharge through legitimate services that are not really necessary. One such service is an insurance premium for in-house wiring that some companies charge a flat fee for (maybe $4 or $5 a month). Stoczko says it is a good idea to get rid of services like this, because it is a service that probably won’t ever see use. “[Consumers] pay for the insurance for the entire time they have telephone service