Escalate Telecommunications Billing Issues With Consumer Agencies for Better Results
How in the world does one get any results from the telephone company in the way of refunds, much less make a living at it? It is often difficult enough just calling in on a simple service or repair order with the carrier to get action! There is no easy answer to getting carrier results; however, the process of external telecommunications escalation is a powerful tool that often brings a more successful outcome to a client than simply being a nuisance or squeaky wheel to the carrier representative. Having an effective escalation technique is often the key to the golden kingdom of telecom cost savings, the ability to get great refunds and savings from the telecom carriers. Moreover, getting justice in the way of telecom refunds and monetary savings is attainable even when the carrier sales team is not cooperating with your efforts or is totally ineffective. Gaining real refunds and savings for our clients through effective escalation is a necessity and doing it correctly allows us to have more confidence in getting results during the project. Having confidence and a good plan fosters carrier respect and carrier respect accommodates monetary results. Effective escalation is the key to success in the telecommunication audit industry.
In a perfect world, justice with the telephone companies would be served with a simple phone call and immediate acknowledgement that a mistake was made on the client’s telephone bill and a complete refund is quickly forthcoming. Sometimes, to our utter shock and surprise, that kind of quick result actually can occur, particularly if your telecom audit client is a very large customer with a lot of monetary clout. However, in the real world of telecom audit, and in most cases, gaining quick credits for telecom overbilling and quickly solving billing errors just does not happen that easily. In most cases, when we escalate a telecom billing issue to the carriers, we have to make countless calls, are given numerous delays and excuses as to why we cannot get a refund for a reasonable back credit. We also have to be a telecom billing engineer and technical expert to enable us to translate the error on the phone bill to the telephone company representatives. Then we must follow-up with seemingly hundreds of emails and phone calls to fix the issue (stop the bleeding) and get the refund, even when we are clearly in the right. Next, we are taxed with digging up the history of the account, trying to dig up old email verifications or meeting notes and other documentation to prove our point to the carrier. Moreover, even when we win and are assured that the refund or correction is in the works by the telecommunication carrier, it is often forgotten about or someone forgets to enter the case, which prompts us to have to again make even more calls months down the road. Sometimes, we then have to open another case to enable us to again try to receive justice on something that was “already resolved.” Most people (clients) aren’t persistent enough and get totally frustrated with the refund process and simply give up. However, a good telecom auditor does not give up; he simply uses the tools in his escalation arsenal to gain carrier cooperation and results.
So what can we specifically do to escalate? How can we make the process more effective? There are a number of steps that a telecom audit specialist or business manager can take to get results.
In my search for information, I interviewed Bob Schwartz, one of the best in the telecom cost recovery and TEM business, an expert in external telecommunications audit company escalations and a well renowned and highly effective 27 year telecom audit expert. As the Vice President of Bill Correctors of California http://www.billcorrectors.com, Schwartz has accumulated a wealth of targeted experience in the telecom escalation process. According to Schwartz, the public has various consumer protection agency tools at their disposal that they can use to gain better results from the carriers.
Schwartz emphasizes that first and foremost; one must understand the value of the Communications act of 1934, which sets the statute of limitations at 36 months for back telecom refunds from the carriers. Also, every state has defining retro-active recovery points which must also be considered. When considering refunds, you should also be aware of date of occurrence and date of discovery rules for each state. The carrier may argue a particular state regulatory agencies’ position of date of discovery on a refund, which would only mandate that the carrier back date a refund to the date that you discovered it, not when the refund actually started. This discovery ruling could dramatically reduce your refund so it is important and one that the carrier might try to use so be aware of it.
Schwartz says one of the most effective ways to file a consumer complaint and gain action against the carriers is to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). There are three ways to file; an informal complaint, a formal complaint, and declaratory rulings.
The most commonly used action against carriers to gain telecom refunds is the informal complaint process with the FCC and it is very easy to do and is quite effective. In fact, Schwartz has successfully filed numerous informal complaints on behalf of Bill Correctors’ clients over the years with the FCC, and has never lost an informal telecom escalation case with the FCC. Schwartz explains that filing an informal complaint can be easily accomplished in two ways; it can be done by simply filling out a form online at the FCC website https://esupport.fcc.gov/ccmsforms/form2000.action?form_type=2000B or by copying the FCC on your escalation letter and refund request to the carriers. Be sure that you have all of the facts and required documentation in your FCC complaint. The FCC will then contact the telecom carrier, present them with your case and your argument to them for resolution, then follow back up with you at a later time to ensure you are satisfied with the outcome offered to you by the carrier. The carrier (usually their legal department) is obligated to give you an answer within a reasonable amount of time of your filing the complaint, normally 30-45 days. Informal complaints are somewhat monitored in bulk by the FCC and from time to time they can force action for correction by the carrier (s) if enough complaints are received.
Formal FCC complaints are rarely used by private companies unless there is a huge amount of monetary refund at stake (millions of dollars) but they can serve a purpose in that the process exists for those kinds of rare cases. One must also have a specialized attorney that is well versed in the formal process to file the paperwork and work the case. One should be prepared to spend a lot of time and money on the formal complaint process. Also, according to Schwartz, most companies don’t want their legal issues aired to the public so they rarely file a formal complaint.
The final type of FCC billing escalation is called a declaratory ruling which has no formal format and are also rarely used. Declaratory rulings are normally only used when one carrier makes a charge against another carrier, therefore, a telecom auditor or business owner would rarely use this action, if at all.
There are other agencies that can also be helpful, according to Schwartz, and one can also file escalations and complaints with then, depending upon the type of service. For example, in most cases in California, for a local service billing problem escalation, consult the California Public Utility Commission because they regulate local service items. In the case of a long distance billing issue, the FCC would be best suited to file your complaint because long distance service is regulated by the FCC. Once again, you can copy the appropriate agency at the same time you file an escalation with the carrier as a way of keeping the carriers on their toes and gain a better chance of obtaining satisfaction for your escalation case.
Other agencies and organizations that can help in your telecom audit refund are the state attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and better business bureau. I have found both the FCC and the FTC to be most helpful in combatting telephone bill cramming and gaining refunds from crammers. FTC complaints can be easily filed online at this link: https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en.
In summary, the effectiveness of the telecommunications escalation process depends on how well we use the proper regulatory rules and agencies. If you know the rules of the escalation game, the process can be fairly easy. There continue to be billions of dollars waiting to be recovered by U.S. businesses because of errors by the telecommunication carriers on their invoices, let’s get started. Contact a telecommunication audit specialist today.