Who can place charges on telephone bills?
While most of the bill contains charges related to local phone service, other companies’ long distance, wireless or Internet service charges may appear on local phone bills.
Which charges are for local phone service?
You may be paying your local phone company for a variety of services, including:
- Basic Local Exchange Service. This can include your telephone line(s) in your home or business, touch-tone features, and mileage zones. In addition, charges for extended calling plans such as Extended Area Service (EAS) or Metropolitan Calling Area (MCA) as well as other calling features may be bundled with charges for basic local telephone service.
- Optional Local Services. This can include inside wire maintenance for telephone equipment and fees for such optional features as Caller ID or Call Waiting. Some services are billed on a monthly basis while others are billed on a per usage basis.
- PIC (Presubscribed IXC Charges). This is the charge applied when a consumer changes a local or long distance carrier.
- Late Payment. These charges are applied when a consumer has a past due balance.
- Directory Advertising Charges. These charges may be applied on the local bill when a customer buys a telephone directory advertisement.
What additional charges may appear on your monthly telephone bill?
- Relay Missouri Charge. Enacted through legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly, this may appear as “other service” on your bill at a current cost of $0.09 per access line. This charge is used to assist those with hearing or speech disabilities to communicate over the telephone network using special phones. This surcharge also provides free equipment to the blind, and to others who have difficulty using the Internet.
- Local Number Portability Charge. Created by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), local number portability allows customers the ability to keep their phone numbers when they switch to another local telephone company. This charge allows the local telephone company to recover the costs of making changes to their equipment in order to provide the service. Applied to all telephone bills, the cost recovery period ends after five years.
- Federal Subscriber Line Charge. Created by the FCC after the break-up of AT&T in 1984, this month charge compensates local telephone companies for a portion of the cost of providing local telephone lines used in interstate (state-to-state) long distance service. Residential customers currently pay a federal subscriber line charge of up to $6.00 a month for their primary telephone line. The FCC caps the maximum price that a company may charge. This charge may also be called interstate access charge or end user common line charge.
- Federal, State and Local Taxes. A federal excise tax (3%) is applied to local telephone services, as well as a state of Missouri sales tax (4.225%). Local and county taxes may be applied according to city/county government orders. Fees may also be applied by the city or county for various reasons. Rates and effective dates vary according to local ordinances. These fees are collected by the local telephone company for the governing body. Money generated by these taxes is used to support general government operations and specific public services.
- Gross Receipts Tax. Missouri legislation passed in the late 1970s established this tax. According to state law, cities or counties may, by ordinance, impose a sales tax upon goods and services. Neither the company nor the Missouri Public Service Commission originated the gross receipts tax. The Commission has authorized utility companies to add, as a separate item on the utility bill of the customer, a charge equal to the proportionate part of any tax or fee imposed upon the company by local taxing authorities. Questions regarding the gross receipts tax should be directed to the local taxing authority.
- 911 Surcharge. This is a charge imposed by local government to help pay for emergency services such as fire and rescue. The Missouri Public Service Commission does not regulate 911 surcharges in Missouri. Your local government determines whether to provide a 911 system. Costs associated with the 11 systems are collected by the phone company through your monthly telephone bill and then paid to the provider of that service.
- Universal Service Fund (USF). Created by the FCC. this fee on your monthly telephone bill helps to make phone service affordable and available to all Americans, including consumers with low incomes, those living in areas where the costs of providing telephone service is high, school and libraries and rural health care providers. Congress mandated that all telephone companies providing interstate service contribute to the Universal Service Fund. Although not required to do so by the local government, many carriers choose to pass their contribution costs on to their customers monthly telephone bills.
Phone companies are required to collect these taxes. They are used to support general government operations and specific public services.
What can I do about Slamming and Cramming?
Your bill will indicate if your long-distance company has changed. If you believe your long-distance provider was switched without authorization ( a practice called slamming), you should contact your business office immediately. If you have a complaint to register regarding slamming, please contact the FCC at 1-888-CALLFCC (1-888-225-5322).
Cramming is the practice of adding charges to a phone bill for services at you did not order. The charges are often unrelated to actual phone usage. Custpomers are warned to avoid contests and sweepstakes entries that require a signature and always read the fine print on promotional materials before signing anything. Cramming complaints should be directed to the company responsible for placing those charges on your bill.
How do I dispute a charge?
Contact the respective provider as soon as possible. The phone number for the company’s business office is listed on the phone bill. Incorrect charges can be adjusted if appropriate. If you are not satisfied with the results of your inquiry, please contact the Missouri Public Service Commission at 1-800-392-4211