Understanding Your Phone Bill
It is important to read your telephone bill every month to make sure you have been charged correctly. If you have a question about a charge or think charges are incorrect, call the carrier responsible for the charges in question before they are due. Save copies of your bills and take careful notes of your discussions with company representatives.
Reading your phone bills each month is important. It can show you exactly what you are getting for your money and help you prevent or promptly discover unauthorized or fraudulent charges. This fact sheet lists some of the charges you may see on your landline or wireless phone bills. Understanding the different charges on your bills will help you identify the best and most cost-effective service options to meet your household and business communications needs.
- Basic local service charge - A consumer must pay this fee to receive a dial tone. Any basic local landline service charges still regulated by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) were fully deregulated as of July 1, 2009.
- Subscriber line charges – Local landline telephone service providers can charge consumers monthly fees to recover part of the cost of providing long distance access over local phone lines. Some companies refer to these charges as common line or end user common line charges.
- 911 emergency service - Indiana law requires customers to pay a fee to support their local emergency telephone systems. The monthly fee is currently set at $1.00 for both landline and wireless telephones.
- Telephone/telecom relay charge – This state-mandated fee helps provide telephone service to consumers with speech and hearing impairments. Some bills list this charge as the Indiana Telephone Relay Access Corporation (InTRAC) surcharge.
- Federal Taxes - The 3 percent federal excise tax can only apply to stand-alone local landline service charges. This tax no longer applies to long distance services.
- State Taxes - State sales tax is 7 percent in Indiana and does not vary among companies.
- Federal Universal Service Fund (USF or FUSF) - Federal law requires phone companies to contribute to this fund, which helps provide affordable telephone service to low-income and rural customers. It also helps fund telecommunications services (including high-speed Internet access) for eligible schools, libraries and rural health care providers. Some companies recover their USF assessments through their basic rates, some charge a flat monthly fee, and others include a line item surcharge.
- Indiana Universal Service Fund (IUSF) – This fund was implemented in 2007 after being approved by the Indiana General Assembly. The IUSF charge on local service bills currently covers high-cost support used to help keep telephone service affordable in rural areas.
- Local Number Portability (LNP) - LNP enables a consumer to keep his or her phone number when switching to a new service provider but staying at the same location. To recover the costs of upgrading equipment to provide LNP, companies may assess fees to all consumers in an affected area.
- Optional features – Charges for optional services - including voice mail, call waiting, call forwarding, three-way calling, Internet access and inside wire maintenance plans - are not regulated in Indiana. (However, many wireless and VoIP providers include some of these options in service bundles or packages without separately stated charges.)
- Rates for pay-per-use services such as automatic callback (*69) and directory assistance (411) are also unregulated in Indiana.
Your phone company may bill for other carriers that provide telecommunications service to you. The company is required to show these charges in a separate part of your bill, and it also must provide toll-free numbers for any other carriers whose charges are included on your local bill.
- InterLATA long distance charges - These are charges for calls to numbers located outside of your LATA, including most interstate calls and some long distance calls within Indiana.
- Taxes – Intrastate long distance charges are subject to Indiana state sales tax.
- Minimum usage charge - Some long distance calling plans charge a minimum usage amount each month regardless of whether any long distance calls are made.
- Monthly calling plan fee - Some long distance calling plans charge a flat monthly fee for customers to lock in a specified per minute rate during certain hours or on certain days of the week. Like a minimum usage charge, this fee is assessed each month regardless of whether any long distance calls are made.
- Universal Service Fund (USF) and Indiana Universal Service Fund (IUSF) - See the descriptions of these fees under local landline service charges.
- Operator-assisted toll calls – Extra charges for collect calls, long distance information and other operator assistance are itemized on long distance bills.
Many of the same charges apply to both landline and wireless/cellular telephone service while others only apply to one or the other. Exact names of billing and service charges will vary by provider. Most wireless telephone charges are not regulated.
- Monthly service charge or access charges – This is the basic charge you pay to receive service. Your wireless bill should detail the number of minutes your calling plan covers on a monthly basis, along with overall usage.
- Usage charges – This portion of the bill should provide additional details on the calls you have made and received, along with any associated charges.
- Overage charges – If you use more than your plan’s allotted minutes in a given time period (usually a month), you may be charged an extra amount per minute for going over your allotted time.
- Roaming charges – These may apply if you use your wireless phone outside of your local calling area. With recent growth in national and regional calling plans, roaming charges have become less common.
- State Gross Receipts Tax – Under Indiana law, this tax applies to revenue from the sale of intrastate telecommunications services.
- Other charges that apply to both wireless and landline services (see definitions in the landline sections above) include: federal and state Universal Service charges, 911 charges, number portability, taxes, directory assistance, and pay-per-use services.
Federal and state laws prohibiting slamming and cramming apply to all telecommunications service providers, regardless of the technology used to provide service. (See the fact sheet on this topic for more information). If service providers fail to answer your questions or resolve your concerns, contact the IURC Consumer Affairs Division at http://www.in.gov/iurc/2331.htm.