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Are you wondering what could be the possible solution to avoid surprise charges on your broadband bill?

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13

Dec, 2016

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The Internet service providers these days have come up with many add-on services which are billed but they need to keep the customers well informed about the charges applicable on the services being availed. Sometimes customers out of curiosity  avail a service that they just wish to experience and end up getting billed for it or it may sometime be that a message of being billed is not clear to them and then all issues start wherein the ISP provider is blamed for having hidden charges.

Surprises charges are inconvenient to the customers, what shall they do?

To avoid high amount bill as customer you need to monitor how much data you are using each month else you could be up for a nasty surprise. You should be well versed with:

  • Know what your data allowance limit: You should know your data allowance is in megabyte or in gigabyte and what’s the limit of it.
  • Know what’s your billing period: Read the CIS (Critical Information Summary), know what’s your billing period and what could be charges incurred if you use data above the limit being allotted to you, Depending on your provider, you can be charged a per megabyte charge for every megabyte you use over your data limit or you may get upgraded to an extra data package at an extra cost.
  • Keeping Track of messages being send by your data provider: Many a times your service provider will send you alerts about your data usage and sometimes due to the technical problem your message may get delayed, thus its best that you are aware of how much you have used and by what date and is it the time to recharge or wait for your automatic data refill by your provider.
  • Updating and Streaming Apps: Streaming video or music and automatic software updates use up large amounts of data hence you may lose track of how much you have used, you can change your settings so these services run only when you would like to stream them and by then you are aware of your data package being left.
  • Pay attention to how much speed you’re paying for—and what you really need: Consumers now pay an average of Rs 1000 a month for a broadband connection to the web. But costs can vary widely—ranging from Rs 650 to Rs 2500— depending on whether the service is bundled with cable and phone, is an introductory rate, and depending also on your connectivity speed.

Too many complaints from the consumer regarding hidden costs added to their bill:

Though many times customers are not fully informed about the hidden costs by companies; hence they are unable to make an informed decision but that may not always be the case.

Cutting costs for Internet starts with understanding what you are currently paying. Most people cannot even parse this out because their bills are a jumble of bundled pricing and fees. The items they should look for include: the base price, speed surcharges, and equipment. If you cannot figure it out based on the arcane coding on your bill, call and ask. Being clear knowledge of your bill is a must rather blaming it on the service provider. You can buy your own modem/router combination—and save a month rental fee you may be charged.

Pay attention to your speed. You could be paying for more than you need, or getting less than you expect because the wiring to your home simply cannot deliver. Internet service that delivers 10-25 megabits per second (Mbps) is becoming the standard for the typical family that streams video. Many, however, opt for even higher speeds. Someone who goes online mainly to check email could make it work with a connection of 1 Mbps rather than the typical offering of 10 Mbps or more.

You can even check for pricing by other competitors available in market and asks your current provider to give you a better deal. Though it’s never been easier to change home phone and broadband provider but then you could save yourself hundreds of rupees on your bills. The length of time your switch will take depends on which provider you’re switching from and to. You can ask your new supplier for more details. You’re unlikely to spend any time without a connection.

Don’t forget to check when you decide to switch:

  • Use more than one comparison website: They don’t all show the same deals and providers, so the more you check, the more likely you are to find a cheaper deal.
  • Look at the monthly and yearly costs in the breakdown: Know what you’re buying to avoid any unwelcome surprises when your bill shows up.
  • Watch out for promoted products: Many comparison sites take a commission when you switch through them. That means they might try to nudge you to pick a product over another, even if it’s not the best deal. Be aware of these tactics.
  • Which provider is best? You can find the latest customer satisfaction ratings for the large providers on various sites.

Know that when a service provider sends in an early bill to avoid having to charge you complex pro-rata & advance amounts, hence be attentive to as and when you receive your first bill and understand the billing cycle completely.

How does your bill looks have a glance:

  • The first page provides an overview of your charges,
  • A sub-total for each service and the total Tax payable.
  • Bill’s due date, invoice period, E-Pay details and further payment information.
  • If this is your first account, this will be highlighted under invoice period.
  • Subsequent accounts will also show a comparison with your previous bill.

 What could be the recurring charges?

The monthly charges on your bill include access fees, equipment repayments and feature pricing.  The Equipment payment would be for limited period of time. There could be two recurring charges.

  • The bill invoice period will not coincide with your connection date or changes to your plan or features.  Thus you’ll see part-monthly charges for the period leading up to your bill as well as monthly charges calculated in advance for the next billing period.
  • The first of each repeated charge is from the date your plan or feature was activated or changed, to the end of this bill’s invoice period.
  • Other items that may appear on your bill could be if you had opted for them like itemized content services, premium sms and other charges based on taxes.

You can save money on your landline: Although more and more people rely on mobile phones and home phone contracts are often bundled with broadband packages, there are still ways to cut your landline costs.

  • Pay by direct debit: It’s usually the cheapest way to pay and it means you won’t forget.
  • Avoid peak calling times: Check when your supplier charges most for calls and do your best to avoid these times.

Are you in for usage-based billing and will it change your habits?

For heavy users the best is usage-based billing, costs will increase for them and for the rest, it remains to be seen depending upon how they change or remain same in their usage pattern. Mostly it’s seen that the amount of streaming that takes place during peak hours, between 7 p.m and 11 p.m., and is about the same for everyone, with or without unlimited internet data.

However, there are concerns that everyone will be using far more bandwidth as the way we use the internet evolves. If most of the television programs or movies that Indians watch are seen online, rather than on traditional TV, consumers could quickly surpass a cap of 50 GB a month.

For managing your data the provider recommends password protection for Wi-Fi, installing anti-virus software and turning off streaming music and video when it’s not in use, so you are not charged for what you are not watching.

Consumers often incorrectly estimate how much data they consume online and pay internet providers for more downloading and uploading than they actually do. Users who go over data caps usually face extra charges or slower internet speeds.

Most of the time consumers often are unclear about what online activities consumed the most data and paid ISPs too much either for data they did not use or through overage fees for exceeding data caps.

ISPs say usage-based pricing allows consumers who use less data to pay accordingly and, in the case of wireless carriers, helps manage congested networks.

Usage-based wireless plans:

Most Consumers may not go for such a plan as they worry that their heavy reliance on Internet access at home, where they were not used to worrying about data limits, would now be a concern that ISPs would use data caps as a loophole to increase their bills. At the same time, automatic updates of programs or applications could be a hidden source of data use and ISPs themselves sometimes differently estimated data use of similar web apps.

In all this chaos there is another concern that ISPs may hurt competition by exempting affiliated services from data caps. Usage-based pricing could also limit innovation or creation of data-heavy apps because some consumers may restrict their Internet use to save money.

On the other hand many broadband customers have experienced the frustration of opening their bills to find that the price they expected to pay is not the price they have been charged because the ISPs have a variety of ways to pump up bills that are legal, but can be unexpected.

How ISPs might bill: The leading ISPs who have the cable side of their business run ads for packages at lowest price possible. Customers who sign up for that offer might be surprised when they learn that things like sports fees, broadcast network fees, box rentals, etc. get added to the monthly bill.

What do we conclude?

As experienced in past transparency has never been a friend of the cable industry and, by extension, the broadband industry. The release of proper notification of how to use the package and what charges are applicable on-actual for the consumer would make it much easier for consumers to evaluate what they are buying. Ultimately it would make it hard for cable companies to obscure their actual prices, but it’s hard to see the industry embracing a change that may hurt their bottom line.

On parallel if we look at sim cards which have come in competition with the broadband service providers, the road ahead may still not be a smoother one for broadband service providers as apart from handling consumers demand they also need to cater to the pricing policies and earn profit too to make their services run.

Based on service address information provided, companies should provide a consumer with the estimated rupees amount of their total monthly bill that includes all government-imposed taxes and fees, and all company-imposed fees, surcharges, and equipment charges just prior to sign-ups. Companies should send customers notification of the total rupees amount of their expected first and subsequent monthly bills within two business days of sign-up. This notification should include a link to or language detailing the cancellation policy and any fees associated with cancellation that applies to the customer.

Companies should provide consumers notification about changes in their monthly service price no later than the monthly bill sent prior to the change or changes becoming effective. This includes increases due to promotional rate expirations, discounts no longer being applied to the account, or general price increases for the products or services being received. Companies may choose to include this notification on the monthly bill or in a separate communication.

Thus, strategizing a win-win situation on both ends has become a priority for the ISPs and on the other hand they need to follow certain guidelines most effective for their customer relationship.

By : Anurag Bose

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