Watching for Invoice Discrepancies
Some Common Overcharges
Even though billing engines used by wireless carriers today show a level of improved accuracy over older wireline billing applications, the sheer complexity of telecom billing almost guarantees some billing anomalies. Add the risk associated with keystroke errors on the high volumes of data transactions handled manually by carrier staff and you’ll find there is some opportunity on practically every invoice to uncover disputable charges.
Manual error checking on invoices with hundreds or even thousands of individual devices is tedious and most certainly will produce a negative ROI with more work effort than savings. Carrier policies of only crediting invoice discrepancies up to six months back also puts bounds on the potential returns of a scrupulous audit of a given invoice. In our experience, while the magnitude and frequency of invoice errors is relatively small, there seems to be a higher emotional satisfaction of receiving carrier credits for billing overcharges than finding an equivalent savings through rate plan optimization.
Automated solutions are a much more cost-effective approach to identifying charge discrepancies. Some Enterprise Mobility Management solutions such as MobilSentry perform a comprehensive set of monthly invoice validation checks to highlight areas where carrier credits are likely. While there are more credit opportunities than these areas listed below, these highlighted areas comprise the more common and costly errors that might occur on wireless invoices.
Overlooked Contract Changes – When you negotiate a new contract with your carrier it may result in new concessions that generate reduced costs on plans or features. When these contractual changes occur, there is typically a parallel effort required to update wireless device records so they correctly bill at the new rates. Often these changes are done via batch updates. In our experience these don’t always go seamlessly and inevitably leave some number of devices still billing at the older rates. Do not assume that just because a price change is documented in the contract that it will make its way to every applicable device on your invoice. While these overcharges may be small on a given device, the fact that they might be replicated over a range of devices makes finding these errors a lucrative endeavor.
Waived or Reduced Fees – If you have been successful at negotiating reduced or waived activation or termination fees, our experience is that it is not uncommon for some devices to continue to slip through with the full fee. The carriers will typically move swiftly to apply the needed credits in these cases but they are not in the business of self-monitoring so it will be up to you to surface any overcharges.
Missed Terminations – Perhaps because terminations require manual actions we find it common that the billing charges don’t always vanish from the bill in a timely fashion. When porting between carriers we sometime find the device continues billing on the previous as well as the new carrier. A sophisticated EMM solution should have the ability to set the status on a device that has been terminated or ported and monitor subsequent months to confirm it is ultimately credited and vanishes from the bill in the expected timeframe. A smartphone billing two to three months past the expected termination date can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars.
Overcharges on Equipment Purchases – Manual ordering processes can lead to mis-coded credits or discounts on wireless asset purchases. Identifying these errors can be complicated by the fact that equipment charges may appear on a subsequent invoice to the date that they were ordered and activated. These charge discrepancies can be sizable given the much higher average cost per device in the smartphone and tablet era.
Discount Errors – Less common but nonetheless rewarding searches can be focused on ensuring that devices are all being charged at the correct discount levels. These errors are not frequent but can sometimes be instigated by a changing discount schedule with a new contract.
The examples noted above are some of the most common invoice discrepancies that we find for our clients. Others include incorrect access rates, double feature billing and incorrectly billed taxes. How comfortable are you that your wireless invoices are free of billing errors?