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TELECOM INDUSTRY CRAMMING PRACTICES GROWING WORSE., a web-based telecom auditing and consulting firm has released the results of a recently completed study gathered from data accumulated by the auditing of millions of dollars of their clients' telecom vendor billing.

David Roberts, President and CEO of said, "The Telecom industry billing standards are light years behind their other technology applications. Based on the growth of errors we are seeing everyday, it makes you wonder if it is intentional". uses a patent-pending software application "The Analyzer"(C) to audit telecom billing for clients. "We are continually amazed at the amount and frequency of unauthorized charges, hidden fees, inaccurate calculations, and general incompetence," added Roberts.

"With the convergence of so many different applications, the commercial telecom consumer is simply exasperated with their billing from telecom vendors," noted Roberts. "Most of our clients do not have the staff, knowledge or the resources to audit their billing and the carriers know this. The carrier billing is so complicated and difficult to read and analyze that it creates a natural environment for cramming to flourish."

"We have seen simple math errors on billing that could not be uncovered unless our client were to add every single call detail record on a telecom bill already hundreds of pages long. These errors were consistent with this particular carrier, which may point to a glitch in their billing software. And this carrier probably has millions of customers on the same billing."'s proprietary software develops a "fingerprint" of their clients' traffic, then applies that traffic against one of the largest dynamic rate and tariff databases known to exist. It is during this initial "audit" these errors and overcharges are uncovered.

"We find long distance billing generally has significantly more problems than billing for local services; however, local service billing is definitely not immune from errors," said Roberts. "Another factor in billing applications that poses huge risks for telecom consumers is the merger and acquisition frenzy in telecom. Unifying the billing from two different organizations presents integration problems that usually end up costing those customers."

Most of the errors found in the billing included non-adherence to contracts and contracted rates and hidden fees and surcharges that appear as taxes, math errors, duplicated charges for calls, disconnect failures, inconsistent billing increments, and many others. The study indicated that prior to using, these clients would probably not have caught most of these errors and overcharges, if any.

"There are very few carriers that get it right. We deal with their billing every day, and my advice to the telecom-consuming public is that if you are not auditing the monthly billing you receive from these carriers, it is more likely than not you are overpaying or paying for billing errors," claimed Roberts. "If you trust the billing you get every single month is correct, I have some swamp land in Arizona I can sell you cheap!" chuckled Roberts. "Just because you receive billing every month doesn't make it right."

"With the downward pressure on long distance rates, it appears the long distance carriers are trying to make up the difference by cramming the bills with additional charges in areas not so obvious to the business telecom user," said Roberts.

The company is taking steps to begin a process of requesting the "switch-detail" records that are created when a call is transported through a carrier's switch. This information is used to create the billing data. Roberts believes there are variances that can be as much as 15-20% higher on the billing than the actual records show from the carriers switch. This type of cramming is difficult to prove as carriers do not like to cooperate by furnishing their switch records to compare with the billing records.

"The average telecom consumer does not even know or understand how the billing records are created from the carrier. Therefore, they would not even know if this 'hidden cramming' is taking place," said Roberts.

The company began a new service in July called Bill Checker(C), wherein the carrier automatically sends the client billing to for auditing and processing. "We have evolved into an outsourced telecom staff for our clients. Our clients depend on us to verify their telecom bills, audit them, and process for payment. We do this much more efficiently and at a decidedly lesser expense than they could do themselves. Most companies do not have a process for this function to begin with. We have accounts that we process as small as one thousand dollar billing all the way to Fortune 500 accounts spending millions," added Roberts.

"Most people open the bill, complain about it, but pay it anyway. Even if they wanted to audit the bill, companies do not have the specialized knowledge, training, and software that we own. My advice is that most carriers are not trustworthy when it comes to billing. It is so widespread that it looks intentional to us," said Roberts.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Industry Trend or Event
Publication:EDP Weekly's IT Monitor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 18, 2000

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