Practice Caution When Auditing Your Telecom Invoices

Since the break-up of the Bell companies in the early 80s, there have been many new complex telecom technologies, services and plans and a variety of telecom providers that have entered the telecom space. With these complexities, come opportunities as well as threats for telecom users. One of the threats that has come with divestiture has been inaccurate billing, usually caused by the use of legacy billing systems designed to handle a basic, simple mix of circuits and services, and utilizing codes that were developed by the Bell companies around those services.

As more complex, negotiated rates and services have come about with more competition, there is a propensity for errors in data entry of contracted rates and for legacy billing systems to apply the inappropriate charge, most in favor of the telecom supplier. To make matters worse, in the past 20 years, there have been numerous mergers and acquisitions among telecom vendors requiring the merging of disparate billing systems. This has dramatically exacerbated the problem.

Telecom users in North America spend a significant amount of money on telecom services and equipment. Telecom services are defined as “fixed”(also known as “wired” or “wireline”) including local, long distance/800, conference calling, wide area network (WAN) and internet; and “wireless” including cellular, blackberries, PDAs, smart phones and pagers. According to Forrester, “typically 3% to 6% of an enterprise’s gross revenues are spent on telecom services with 72% of the average North American enterprise telecom services’ budget spent on landline and 28% on wireless services.”

These companies are challenged with the management of carrier billing that is complex and fraught with errors.  Forrester estimates that “billing errors average 5% to 12% of ongoing telecom services budgets.”  In addition, during the past 20 years of auditing telecom invoices, Valicom has found that over 35% of invoices have some type of error, discrepancy or overcharge in them. Based on this, it is prudent to err on the side of caution when auditing your telecom invoices.