Invoice Billing Error Claims - Navigating the Minefield Part 1

Posted by John Venditti on Oct 1, 2011 12:10:00 AM

In telecom expense management, TEM, telecom audit, invoice audit, telecom billing

So you found an error on your telephone bill and are getting ready to contact the carrier for resolution:  Now what?

Common sense tells you that once notified, the telephone company should correct the error immediately and refund all overpayments.

Unfortunately, this is an area where common sense rarely prevails.

There are a number of roadblocks to correcting the error and pitfalls of which to be wary of while negotiating the refund to which you are entitled. This article introduces you to common road blocks and pitfalls encountered when managing telecommunications invoice disputes and some tools to overcome them.


Understaffing at vendors

Vendors have cut resources to the extent that most customer service representatives are overworked and juggling too many requests.  It is common to wait weeks for a vendor’s response to even a simple issue.  A complex issue involving a contract or serious error can take months to correct.  Negotiating and waiting for credit can take several additional months. You can spend days and weeks of work time following up with and prodding vendors. Unfortunately, the necessity of multiple escalations due to vendor understaffing is now standard procedure.


Changing or scattered account teams

In addition to understaffing, turnover is very high. With constant change and turmoil in the industry and pressure on sales to make their numbers, it is likely your sales and support representatives will change often.  During these transitions complete information and history is not always passed along to the new team.  Each time a new team needs to ‘start over’ in the relationship-especially one with any open issues or claims, there is an increase in resolution time.

Account teams may be divided by service as well.  You may have a lead rep, regional rep, voice rep, data rep, billing rep, ordering rep, or be sent over to an impersonal call center.


Vendor imposed limitations/Bill disclaimer

A common phrase on many invoices:  “We request that you notify us in writing within 60 days of receiving this invoice, any disputes you may have as to the accuracy of the invoice”.

The key word in this phrase is ‘REQUEST’.  The carrier knows it is only a request but when you speak with a representative their first counter argument is that you did not dispute the charges within the REQUESTED 60 DAYS.  You can see the language on the invoice and you have a relationship with the carrier so you do not see anything wrong with accepting this limitation. Many people accept only 60 days of credit when they are entitled to much more. Contract terms and federal or state laws determine how long you have to dispute an invoice and how far back you are entitled to receive credit.  As the laws vary by state it is important to retain the services of a reputable professional when filing claims with carriers.


Total Billed Revenue / Vendor reluctance to issue credit

Many sales people are compensated on total billed revenue (TBR). Each month a report is compiled by the vendor totaling all invoices for each customer assigned to a sales person. This number is used to evaluate and compensate the sales person.  The sales person is then paid based on TBR.  If you dispute a charge a year later and request credit going back 18 months the sales person is at risk to repay commission they have already received and the vendor has counted the revenue towards quarterly and yearly earnings.  If credit is issued, it will have a direct negative impact on both the sales person and company.  Therefore neither the sales person nor the company believes it is in their best interest to either issue credit or make it easy for you. It is best to utilize a reputable telecom audit consultant with the knowledge and experience to maximize your return and make the process as painless as possible.


Contracts: Limitations that shorten statutes

Telecom vendors will try to limit the number of months for which they are liable to issue credit for billing errors.  The most common method is to include language restricting their ability to assess under billings as well was limitations on the number of months’ credit for which they are liable. As the number of over billings dwarf the number of under billings it is not in the best interest of any company to shorten credit timeframes allowed by law.   

In part 2 we'll discuss some of the pitfalls to avoid to accelerate your time to savings.


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