Telecom bill cramming impacts IT's bottom line

By Stephanie Overby , CIO |  Unified Communications, telecom

In the absence of outlawing the addition of third-party charges to phone bills, the problem is getting worse, says Park.

"First of all, it can be difficult enough to understand if a call charge is based on cramming or is simply based on overage usage, long distance, or other carrier-approved charges on a bill," says Park. "Second, cramming can come from voice calls and text messaging. Consider campaigns such as texting 90999 to donate to Haiti. Based on campaigns like this, we know that it is easy enough to initiate a $10 payment to a random company or individual just by sending a few digits of information."

And now, malicious mobile applications can actually initiate cramming charges as well without the knowledge of the end-user. "What happens when an application auto-texts and racks up the charges on your bill?" says Park.

The key to managing cramming is straightforward. Dispute, dispute, dispute. "Carriers are typically held responsible for refunding any unauthorized charge as long as they are detected and disputed in a timely manner," says Park.

But that can be an arduous task. Until recently, HCA was disputing charges in house. It took an average of one hour per disputed charge, says Maclay. "With hundreds of these charges each month, it would take a full time employee to stay on top of it." Now the company is outsourcing telecom invoice management, including dispute resolution.

Consistent device governance can also go a long way to managing unauthorized telecom charges. "When an enterprise can centrally manage its mobile device fleet with consistent corporate policies that are well enforced, it becomes much less likely that any enterprise device has legitimate cramming charges," says Park, who advises that IT lock down any device that has cramming charges associated with it to confirm either that the charges are not coming from the device or to determine how the cramming is being initiated.

One of the FCC's proposed rules would require that phone companies isolate third-party charges from the normal phone bill. In the meantime, says Maclay, "until all voice service telecom invoices are monitored every month for cramming charges, they will continue and eventually increase."

Read more about mobile/wireless in CIO's Mobile/Wireless Drilldown.

Originally published on CIO |  Click here to read the original story.
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