Understanding Your Bill: Requirements for Truth in Billing


Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services has prepared the following information, in the form of questions and answers, to help you understand the new "Truth in Billing" rules, issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). After a brief summary, you’ll find what we hope is appropriate and timely customer information. If you still have questions, our Customer Service Reps and other LTS employees will be glad to help you resolve your billing issues or explain your rights as ensured by the Truth in Billing rules.

The FCC has issued a number of requirements and standards that local telephone companies, such as Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services, and other telecom service providers must follow in billing customers. These requirements are commonly referred to as "Truth in Billing" (TIB). The FCC ordered these changes to help consumers better understand how they are billed for various services and to combat the increased incidence of slamming, cramming, and other telephone fraud abuse.

In summary, the TIB rules require the following:

    1. The name of the service provider associated with each charge must be clearly identified on your bill.
    2. When two or more service providers appear on the same bill, the charges must be separated by specific company.
    3. Telephone bills must include clear and conspicuous notification of any new service providers.
    4. The charges listed must be accompanied by a brief, clear, non-misleading, plain-language description of the services rendered. Furthermore, when a bill contains charges for basic local service, in addition to other charges, the bill must distinguish between charges for which non-payment will result in the disconnection of local service ("deniable" charges) and those for which non-payment will not result in the disconnection of local service ("non-deniable" charges).
    5. The bill must include clear and conspicuous disclosure of inquiry contacts.



Truth in Billing

  1. Why did the format of my telephone bill change?
  1. The Federal Communications Commission has issued requirements and standards that Lackawaxen and other telecom service providers must follow in billing customers. These requirements are commonly referred to as "Truth in Billing" (TIB). The FCC ordered these changes to help consumers better understand how they are billed for various services and to combat the increased incidence of slamming, cramming, and other telephone fraud abuse.

As a result of these requirements, we made revisions to the bills we send you. At the same time, we’d like to emphasize that, as part of our commitment to high-quality service, Lackawaxen has always maintained a one-to-one relationship with our customers here in Wayne and Pike counties. Customer service is the cornerstone of our philosophy and mission. Likewise, we‘ve always encouraged customers to contact us about any problems or questions they have about their bills or their service. So, while your bills may look different as a result of all the FCC-mandated requirements, the changes do not reflect any variation from Lackawaxen’s traditional dedication to serving you or our community.

Q. I do not recognize the names of some of the companies listed on my bill. Who are they, and why are they billing me?

A. Any company that has charged you for using its services has its name and toll-free telephone number included on your bill, along with the charges for the services. If you don’t recognize the company or have questions about the services for which you’ve been charged, call that company to ask for identification and more information about the services.

  1. Why are charges from each company listed separately on my bill?

A. The TIB rules require that we organize your telephone bill so that charges from each company billing you for service(s) appear separately. For example, if you have chosen AT&T for your in-region (intra-LATA) long-distance calls and Lackawaxen Long Distance for your out-of-region (inter-LATA) long-distance calls, your bill will list all your AT&T calls separately from all your Lackawaxen Long Distance calls.

Q. A company listed on my bill has charged me for telephone-related services, but I don’t understand the charges, and the description for the services is unclear. Can you explain them to me?

A. Some of the charges you find on your phone bill may not be from Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services. The name and toll-free number of the company billing you for services is listed in the section where the charges appear. You can call that company and ask for an explanation of the charges. You may also dispute the charges and request that the company remove those charges from your bill.

Lackawaxen also reminds you that, as part of our ongoing service commitment to our customers, you can always contact our business office if you have additional questions about the charges on your bill or if you encounter any difficulties in contacting the service providers listed on your bill. If you’re not satisfied with the response from that service provider, we will try to help you resolve the problem.

  1. Why is there is a charge on my bill from a company that I don’t recognize or subscribe to?
  1. Some service providers do not bill their customers directly, so they have contracted with Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services to bill their customers for them. These companies send us your usage data electronically, and we use that information to bill you on their behalf. The process is automated end-to-end; we do not screen the data; we rely strictly on the information the company sends us.

Increasingly, telemarketers and con artists are using your phone numbers to post unauthorized and fraudulent charges in the data that’s sent to us for billing. These charges can be for many things; e.g., voice mail, calling cards, personal 800 numbers, 900 services, even sweepstakes and other marketing offers, but the result is that the charges are included in the data sent to us for billing. We have no way to monitor its accuracy.

The changes we have made to the format of your bill are meant to help you more easily identify any unauthorized or fraudulent charges.

  1. What does the statement on my bill, "This company did not bill you for services in the previous billing cycle," mean?
  1. In its rules, the FCC ordered customers be notified of a "new" service provider if a bill includes charges from a company that did not bill the customer for services in its previous billing cycle. However, the FCC stipulated that such notification applies only to "subscribed" services; i.e., when a service provider has a continuing relationship with a customer and likely places regular or periodic charges on the monthly bill. For example, preferred carrier charges for local and long-distance services, long-distance surcharges, voice mail, Internet access, and other services that are continuous until a customer terminates them, are subject to the FCC’s notification rule.

On the other hand, services billed solely on a "per-transaction" basis, such as directory assistance, dial-around (10-10-xxx) toll calls, and other "non-recurring" pay-per-call services, are not subject to the "notification" requirements.

  1. I do not understand all the long-distance surcharges and monthly fees listed on my telephone bill. Who is responsible for describing these charges and fees?

A. The long-distance service provider you have chosen as your "preferred" carrier and any other long-distance company you have used to make your toll calls must provide clear explanations of all charges, surcharges, and other fees associated with the services for which you have been billed. The toll-free number for the long-distance company, or its billing agent, is listed on the same page of your bill as the charges and fees. You should call them and ask for an explanation of any charges or fees that you don’t understand.

  1. If I want to dispute a charge that I don’t understand, and I don’t pay for a charge that appears on my bill, how will I know if my local telephone service will be disrupted?
  1. According to the FCC requirements, Lackawaxen Telecommunications Services has identified all charges on your bill that, if not paid, could result in the disconnection of your basic local service; such services are listed as "deniable" charges. The Pennsylvania Public Service Commission designates the individual charges that must be classified as "deniable," and those charges are identified on your bill.

The other, "non-deniable" charges on your bill can result in the termination of the specific service provided by that company, but will not lead to the disconnection of your basic local service. If you don’t recognize the charges, you should call the toll-free number listed on the bill within 60 days to ensure there is no interruption in the service in question.

  1. I am confused about some of the toll-free numbers listed on my bill. Is the actual service provider always the appropriate party for me to contact about my bill?
  1. Some service providers bill you directly for their services. Others use third parties, known as "billing agents" or "aggregators," to bill for them. Thus, an actual service provider may not always be the appropriate party for you to contact about billing questions or problems. In fact, some service providers have contracted with third-party billing agents or aggregators just to handle inquiry and dispute resolution of the charges on your bill associated with that provider.

The FCC requires that the toll-free number listed on customers’ bills as the "inquiry contact" — regardless of whether it’s for the actual service provider, a billing agent, or an aggregators — must connect you to a party that possesses "sufficient knowledge and authority" to resolve customer inquiries about their accounts and requests for adjustment.

The FCC adopted inquiry contacts as a fundamental billing principle because of growing consumer concern about the complexity of telecom service bills and because of increased fraud and abuse in customers’ charges. The FCC intends for the inquiry contacts to help consumers become more educated about their bills and the billing process. The FCC believes that providing a billing inquiry contact will help minimize customer confusion about the charges on their bills and enable customers to resolve billing disputes more easily and promptly.

Q. Are service providers required to list their business address on my bill? How do I contact a service provider if I’m not satisfied with the resolution reached over the phone?

A. The FCC did not require service providers to include a business address on each telephone bill for the receipt of consumer inquiries and complaints. However, service providers are required to make their business address available upon request to consumers through their toll-free number.