BlogUpdates to the FCC Truth-in-Billing Rules and How TEM Can Help

Updates to the FCC Truth-in-Billing Rules and How TEM Can Help

June 28, 2018, Expense Management

Telecom bills are notoriously complex and difficult to understand, which we discussed in a recent blog series earlier this year. There are several factors that make telecom bills so confusing. One reason is simply the structure by which telecom transactions are billed. To illustrate, let’s take a look at telecom billing compared to ordering from a restaurant. When you order from a restaurant, you are immediately provided an itemized receipt at the end of your meal. You know exactly what food, taxes, and services comprise the total charge. You can quickly see exactly what you’re paying for and feel confident that pricing is fair and as-expected.

However, with telecom, invoices are not available immediately but can take months to receive. They usually contain a very high number of items, often with confusing pricing and line details. Assessing whether pricing is fair and as-expected is time-consuming and requires detective-like skills. In large organizations with thousands of usage transactions, this quickly becomes impossible. On top of it all, taxes and tariffs whose values change independently of the carrier contract and vary by jurisdiction further complicate the pricing of your telecom bill.

The FCC Truth-in-Billing Policy

The complexity of telecom bills led to the rise of fraudulent practices such as ‘slamming’ (switching your telephone provider to another provider without your permission) and ‘cramming’ (placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill). In order to improve consumers’ understanding of their telephone bills and help them detect and prevent unauthorized charges, the FCC adopted the Truth-in-Billing Policy in 1999. This policy outlined a set of rules governing telecom bills.

Recent Amendments to the Truth-in-Billing Rules

Recently, the FCC issued a Declaratory Ruling that has made some amendments to these rules. These amendments state that:

  • A charge labeled “recurring fee” without additional description or clarifying context violates the rules and event. Sufficient background about the charge must be provided so that the customer can reasonably understand it.
  • A 1.5% charge labeled as “late fee” that lacks any additional description looks vague, but does not violate the specifications and is considered self-explanatory.
  • Labeling a charge as “other fees” without additional explanation or clarifying context is unclear and violates the Truth-in-Billing rules.

Taking Charge of Your Telecom Billing

While these amendments are designed to provide clarity and make it easier to understand your bill, in reality, telecom billing is still incredibly complex. Organizations can receive hundreds, if not thousands, of invoices each month. When overwhelmed by the heavy demands of telecom invoice processing, organizations are more likely to overlook billing errors and incur penalties for late payments.

However, the failure of conventional approaches to managing telecom costs creates opportunities for cost savings. By applying best-in-class TEM solutions that enforce invoice management best practices, these savings can be realized.

TEM providers like Calero can help organize the often-cryptic billing information spread throughout hundreds of pages of a telecom bill into easy-to-understand and actionable guidance to optimize your technology investments. With the right business intelligence tools, you can both unlock and make sense of your telecom data.

A good TEM provider is experienced with managing carriers. They can help identify billing errors and provide the hard data needed to win disputes with carriers, as well as verify that carriers are complying with Service Level Agreements. On the business end, they can also optimize your service plans and reduce labor costs through process improvements.

By examining the three pillars of telecom optimization, a TEM provider can help you coordinate every aspect of your telecom environment, letting you achieve the greatest amount of savings and efficiency. Telecom invoice management solutions provide control over the complete invoice management lifecycle and interface with inventory, procurement and workflow management systems. As a fully outsourced solution, they come with features such as web-based real-time reporting, administration, approval routing, allocation and value-added services such as asset management, vendor management and contract management.

Don’t drown in the complexity of your telecom bills. To learn more about how you can benefit from a TEM solution, click here.