A few cents here, an extra dollar there.
At first, getting slightly overcharged on a bill may not feel like too big of a deal. Losing an extra few dollars sometimes doesn’t seem worth the effort of suing a company or spending hours on hold and arguing for the price you agreed to pay.
But when multiple companies are adding a variety of unfair fees to your accounts, that money adds up. Over the past two years, 85% of Americans have found hidden fees in their bills and two-thirds say they’re being bombarded with more surprise charges than five years ago.
If people don’t fight back, this will only get worse.
How to Spot Hidden Fees
Take the time to look over your bills for extra fees.
If your bill is unitemized, meaning there isn’t a breakdown of where charges come from, that’s a bad sign. It’s similarly suspicious if an itemized bill has charges labeled as miscellaneous. Even when all the expenses are clearly broken down, it’s possible you’re being charged for a service the company is supposed to be covering.
For example, even though many major banks have changed their policies to not charge overdraft fees, the largest banks still brought in $11.5 billion through overdraft charges in 2018.
Other popular hidden fees to look for include:
- Connectivity Charges
- Account closure fees
- Bank inactivity fees
- Service fees
- “Convenience” fees
As you can see above, many of the most common hidden fees come from banks, ticketing services, and telecommunication companies. In the next section, learn about two major companies famous for cramming in hidden fees.
How Telecommunication Companies Hide Fees
It’s been shown that Comcast has no fewer than 12 hidden fees mixed into their Triple Play package. These include:
- Regulatory Recovery Fee
- FCC Regulatory Fee
- Franchise Fee
- Franchise Related Costs
- Universal Connectivity Charge
- 911 Fee(s)
- Regional Sports Fees
- DVR Fee
- Broadcast TV Fee
- Set Top Box Fee/Cable Card Fee
- Cable Modem Rental
- HD Technology Fee
In some cases, these fees can add up to over $70.
Even companies that specifically boast “no hidden fees” as T-Mobile does, do still have hidden fees. To get the all-inclusive pricing T-Mobile boasts, you need to specifically request and sign up for it. If you fail to do so, you may incur some of the following charges:
- Utility User Tax
- 911 Surcharge
- Regulatory Programs Fee
- Telco Recovery Fee
- Universal Service Fund Fee
- Utility User Tax
Furthermore, if you don’t enroll in autopay, you can expect to pay an extra $5 per line, per month.
How to Fight Back Against Hidden Fees
So, we all agree that paying these fees sucks. But what can you do, as an individual?
There are a few steps you can follow to identify the fees, get them removed, and fight back against companies with unfair practices. Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Spot the Fees
The first step in avoiding unnecessary fees is to know what they are and find them in your bill.
Check for some of the costs mentioned in the sections above.
Specifically check for phone bill cramming. Cramming is when your phone company lets other providers of services or goods place charges on your telephone bill.
To spot cramming, look for charges in general terms, such as “service fee,” “other fees,” “voicemail,” or “membership.” There may also be unauthorized charges such as “premium” text messages or unwanted subscriptions for celebrity gossip. The FCC estimates cramming has affected tens of millions of American households.
Step 2: Dispute the Fees
Once you’ve spotted fees, it’s time to dispute them.
In some cases, a long phone call with a helpful and knowledgeable representative is enough to get sneaky charges removed. But that’s not always the case.
Other times, it requires legal counsel.
Step 3: Take Action
If you’re not able to get the fees removed through the normal customer service process, it may be time to take stronger action.
Many consumers choose to pursue a legal case versus a company, like taking them to small claims court.
But this can be a long and difficult process for consumers to navigate. In addition, many contracts can limit your legal options and force you to pursue justice through very specific means.
Enter: Consumer arbitration.
Arbitration done by a neutral third party allows you to resolve a dispute with a company without the high expense or formality. The process can be handled remotely and the results are often quicker than a long legal battle.
FairShake offers a platform that allows consumers to initiate arbitration and pursue justice. It’s as simple as filling out a quick form and the service is completely free to use; you only pay if we’re able to get you a settlement.
You deserve to only pay for services you initially agreed to pay a company.
Tricky fees snuck into your bill every month can add up and become expensive. Check your bills, especially telecommunications bills, for hidden fees that weren’t advertised. Once you’ve spotted them, fight back by calling the company, suing, or using consumer arbitration. Remember, the money you want back never should have been charged to you in the first place. Take charge of your finances by skipping unwarranted charges.
Hannah is a writer who’s passionate about topics related to personal finance and consumer rights. She works with FairShake, a platform designed to help individuals navigate the arbitration process and get justice from big companies.
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