disputing your cell phone bill

Have a copy of your bill in front of you and know the specific parts of your bill you are disputing.
  1. Decide up front what the ideal bill reduction would be, and what you would be happy to settle with. Recognize that if the charges are valid, you may not receive a credit.

  2. Call the cell phone company’s customer support number. Often you can short cut the touch tone prompt maze by pressing 0. Read how to actually reach a human when calling a business.

  3. Start with “I have a question about my bill.” If you open with an accusation then they will be on the defensive. Get them to look at your bill and see what you are concerned about. It is possible that after you point it out, they may notice it is a mistake on their own and fix it without you asking – possible, but not likely.

  4. Write down the name of the agent helping you, and keep specific notes of any commitments they make to you. Legally, a representative does not need to give you their whole name or their ID number due to CPNI regulations. If the rep gives you an “extension number” be sure to obtain the state or region of their call center, so that the extension is actually useful.

  5. Direct them to the specific problem and explain why you think it is wrong. Focus on one issue at a time to expedite the call. Often if one problem is resolved it automatically fixes others.

  6. If you are actually at fault then explain that the extra charges are a hardship and you would really appreciate it if they could help you out. They will often reduce charges if you ask nicely, but don’t expect the carrier to take responsibility for your usage. Credits such as this are seldom issued more than once in any 12-month period. More likely you will be given “courtesy airtime” as that is less expensive to offer.

  7. Ask for the ideal bill reduction you want. Negotiate civilly if they don’t give you at least the minimum you are willing to settle on.

  8. Call again at a different time if speaking with a customer service agent doesn’t work at first. However “Rep Shopping” as this is called usually doesn’t work unless the next representative completely fails to read the notes placed on your account by the previous “rep.” Each representative has the same resources, obligations, and guidelines to work within.

  9. Try speaking with a manager but only if the representative can’t provide a satisfactory conclusion after investigating all possibilities. Alternatively, you can ask the representative to ask a manager on your behalf, since many managers have limited time available to talk with customers. Also, if the agent in particular is being courteous, let them know so they won’t get defensive that you want to talk to a supervisor.

  10. Mail a letter to the company and follow up within a few weeks to see if they have received the letter and have processed it. In general with all sorts of companies, this can be a slow, frustrating process. Written replies from companies often are formulaic and do not address an individual problem well. Some people prefer contacting (see below) the BBB and FCC for better, faster action.

  11. Contact the Better Business Bureau only as a last resort. They will send a complaint letter to the company and ask for a formal explanation. Some companies care about their ratings in the Better Business Bureau and will strive to make the needed changes if you were treated unfairly.

  12. For action that really gets attention (usually within a month), complain to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). It’s easy:http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html. The FCC regulates the companies; therefore, the phone companies hate to have complaints there, especially unresolved ones. Complaining to the FCC helps the agency spot company-wide problems and will help you personally.

  13. This won’t actually help you resolve your dispute, but if you would like to strike back at the offending cell phone carrier, you can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. They do not intervene in these issues, but they use complaints to track how companies are doing. If a company gets enough complaints the FTC will investigate their practices.