Friday, January 23, 2015

Surrender - the Surcharge Conquers

Today it was a course in Telecom Billing 401 - including calls to Cincinnati Bell Telephone and Verizon.  The complexity product choice and configuration has made billing (and customer understanding) next to impossible.  Part of this stems from the creative marketing and pricing of options to differentiate from competition.

(1) First let me blog boringly about the Cincinnati Bell one hour discussion.  Back in August when I ordered FiberOptics bundle, I was careful to understand "all the charges" including the fine print.  Almost like a 10 page legal contract, I carefully read back my understanding to the Rep and agreed upon monthly cost (gross and net).  Four billing cycles later (and three phone calls) they still were not correct on the bill.  My understanding (and past experience has told me to document every phone conversation - name of rep, time of day, and agreed upon numbers) was that my bundled TV, phone and Internet would be $145.36 per month (all in) excluding taxes.  In addition, I was to receive 10 months of $10 credit ($100) for account referral.

In the end Cincinnati Bell honored the commitment but the billing system had no hope of showing this easily.  Finally, the supervisor just decided to create a new order with promotion (good for one year) that would simplify the bill and actually delighted me in savings for a new monthly total of $113.69 excluding tax and ..... you guessed it fees.  You know those irritating fees that you think are trivial but find out in your first bill the are $8 - $10 [ 911 (phone), Universal Service Fund (phone), Carrier Subscription Charges (phone), Relay/TDD Service Surcharge (phone), Admin Recovery Fee (Long Distance) and Franchise Fees (TV).]

Stay tuned for the real "final answer" for what the monthly bill will be.

(2) Second was attempting to correct the billing snafu's of Verizon.  Two weekend's ago Ellen and I went to the Verizon store to get her a new phone.  This was complicated by the fact that I was transferring my "upgrade" to her.  Also I decided to use the upgrade for the tablet we had configured when Jenna had engineered a way to get Susan a new phone last March.  I give Verizon an "A" in creativity and flexibility on family combined plans.  But I give them a "D" on the ability to get the billing correct.  After two phone calls and a return visit to the store, I'm still not sure they have it correct.

I have just added an additional pet peeve (my first is the $35 activation charge) to my list of Verizon dislikes.  On the January bill I discovered a $43.87 sales tax charge on the full retail price of Ellen's new phone (even though we didn't pay the full retail) - 6.75% of $649.99.  This is another hidden way that Verizon surprises the customer with "add on" one time costs (like activation charges).

Of course Verizon has their own set of Surcharges also - Fed Universal Service Charge, Regulatory Charge, Administrative charge, OH Tax Recovery Surcharge, OH TRS Surcharge, OH Reg Fee, State/Local E911, and of course the normal Ohio and Hamilton County sales tax.  This adds to $18.34 per month on $233.20 (7.64%).

So what can be done about these "hidden" non trivial charges?  Absolutely nothing (other than complaining by blogging).

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