How often do you check your bills for accuracy? Hopefully, a bill arrives every time because mistakes do happen. Of course, while sometimes there is a true mistake on your bill, other times companies may slip some extra charges in hopes that you won't notice the increased price or surcharges.
Billing errors are common, and if you're diligent about checking your bills, hopefully you'll spot these errors quickly. It's easy to get in the habit of checking statements that come in the mail, but also remember to check the billing statements that come through your email if you've selected paperless billing. Keep a close eye on:
- Your cable bill
- Your cell phone bill
- Your medical bills
- Your insurance statement
- Your bank statements
- Your credit card bills
- Your electricity bill
- Your gas bill
- Your water bill
If you discover a mistake, work first under the assumption that the company made it accidentally. As long as it's true, calling to alert the company will settle the issue. However, even in the case of the company's mistake, you often need to do more than this. That's why you should know how to file a dispute in order to resolve the problem effectively.
What You Should Check in Your Billing Statements
Even if you are diligently monitoring all of your bills and statements, you still need to know what it is you're checking for. This depends, of course, on the types of bills you are checking. Some of the more common billing complaints include:
- Overcharging and Hidden Fees – You agreed to one price, but your credit card charge turned out to be higher. You thought you were paying for one thing, but the actual billed amount seems to grow through "extras" the company includes. Perhaps you've booked an airline seat and suddenly you've found yourself paying for traveler's insurance and a baggage fee as well. And it happens in many places – not just to travel expenses.
One Directv customer realized a potential DirectTV billing issue and cancelled his/her service proactively. The person signed up for a special offer where the first year of service was $45 per month. Then the consumer did the research to find out the cost of the second year and realized that the company had carefully concealed plans to hike the price to $105. According to the reviewer,
"It took over 4 hours and at least 10 phone calls, getting disconnected, calling back etc. They are dishonest and they misrepresent their products and then it is damn near impossible to get them to disconnect."
The customer resolved his/her DirectTV billing complaint by simply cancelling the service.
- Price jumps and multiple charges – Your utility bill or cable bill has been consistent for months. Then it jumps much higher unexpectedly. Or perhaps you previously paid a deposit, but the full charge appears to be without accounting for the prepaid deposit. This PissedConsumer user described a Direct Energy billing complaint that resulted from overcharging.
The customer noticed, thanks to a tip on social media about the company, that the price he/she was paying for services more than doubled:
"Due to a post shared on Facebook I was prompted to check my bill to see if I was also being waaay over charged for gas. Sadly I am! At $8.78 compared to $3.06!!". Fortunately the company contacted the consumer and hopefully this complaint will be resolved to his/her satisfaction.
- Charges for services not used and unexplained fees – Some charges are simple baffling. Your medical billing statement appears to be written in a strange language of codes that have no explanation, only high dollar amounts. Or you booked a hotel room but cancelled it weeks ago. Why did the hotel bill you in full for the night just recently? A PissedConsumer user has a similar Aspen Dental bill problem that arose in this way.
The customer paid a deposit for service and was given information about how the deposit works. The reviewer cancelled the appointment well in advance, but the deposit was not returned. In fact, as he/she described it,
"As of 4 weeks later I am still awaiting a refund of $200 for services never performed." His/her Aspen Dental bill issues may have been even worse if the person followed through on the appointment. The consumer claims, "In addition, I found after going to another legitimate dentist that they were planning to perform unnecessary dental work that cost about $1500."
- Fraudulent charges – Someone has gotten ahold of your credit card number and you're charged for items purchased in different cities, states, or even countries. In these situations, banks and credit card companies have policies and procedures to report your card number as lost or stolen and to stop additional charges before beginning the dispute process. This doesn't always mean the process goes smoothly, however.
One American Express customer explained his frustration with his American Express billing dispute process on PissedConsumer. As a part of a dispute on an old card number, he explains that the company
"cancelled ALL 3 OF MY CARDS, had me re apply, approved the cards, then cancelled those leaving a MAJOR NEGATICE IMPACT ON MY CREDIT REPORT OF now 6 cancelled cards and three more inquires".
These situations are all frustrating, especially when the amounts in dispute are hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Knowing how to dispute a bill means knowing the right steps to take and the best way to present your case. Check our tips on how to monitor and dispute bills to eliminate all the possible issues with them and to always have irrefutable arguments in the battle for your billing issue settlement.
How to Monitor and Dispute Bills
Before you dispute a bill, you must be actively monitoring them. Consider making some adjustments in your financial life to do exactly that.
- Keep all documentation. If you hang on to the receipts, statements and reports provided by companies a, you can easily monitor the final bills later by comparing rates and keeping track of billing. While this may be difficult to do for small daily purchases, online software such as Abacus and Certify Now may help enter receipts and assist you in tracking credit card and debit card usage.
- Read all billing statements every month. You can only spot errors on your bill if you know what your billing statement typically is. If you never look at it you will never know if the bill is jumping around every month or if a strange charge has appeared.
- Consider removing services directly from the bank. While convenient, services like automatic deductions and billing withdrawals encourage you to trust the company taking your money and to avoid looking at the bill. Use online banking service to schedule payments on your own end to keep payments convenient but also to allow you to check each bill as they come in.
Once you are in control of your bills and working to find errors, you are in a much better position to make a dispute should issues occur. Should you notice an error or have a question or a concern about a charge, these points are for you to consider on how to dispute a bill correctly.
- Contact the merchant. Your first step for any complaint is to contact the company that has sent you the bill. There is always a chance that there was simply a mistake and calling the company's attention to the issue may be enough to resolve it. There is also a chance that you have made a mistake and forgotten about a charge or misread an agreement and calling the merchant will help clear up misunderstandings.
- Take the next step to resolution. If the merchant is unable to resolve the issue, your next step depends on the type of bill you are handling.
- If you are trying to dispute a cable bill or a utility bill, you will need to work with different management levels within the company to settle the issue. You might start by talking to a standard representative, but you can ask to speak to a supervisor and then a manager if your concerns aren't being addressed. Continue asking for the next level of management if the first customer service representatives can't help you.
- If you are working to dispute a travel bill like a hotel or airline charge, your first step is to contact the hotel and then the credit card company you used to make the purchase. Hopefully the merchant will resolve the issue, but if not, the travel protection services on your credit card may help. Your credit card company will have a set procedure to follow in order to use their protection services.
You will likely need to book t a trip with the credit card in order to use the travel protection services. When you call to use the services, you will be asked questions about your travel plans and your current situation. Depending on what travel protection is available through your card, you may be eligible for lost or damaged luggage, a trip you were unable to take due to illness or inclement weather or accidents that occur while traveling.
- If you are trying to dispute a medical bill, your next step is to talk to the medical provider about the billing codes and services. Be sure the services billed match the services performed and then ask about the best possible price. Different customers pay different prices for the same medical services based on their insurance companies. Ask the hospital or doctor's office for the best possible price, and if you can, pay the bill in a lump sum rather than payments. The office may be willing to accept a lower lump sum payment.
- If you are looking to dispute a credit card bill or charges, call the credit card company and report false or fraudulent payments if they are completely unrelated to any of your own purchases – especially if they are happening in a totally different geographical area. If you recognize the company making the charge, begin your dispute with this entity and then continue to work with the credit card company.
- Follow the official procedures. Many times, in order to formally dispute a charge or a bill, you will need to follow the official procedures for the company. This might mean filling out a form online or working with a customer service representative to complete the form through their system. Other companies may mail or email you a form to fill out and return.
Still others will request a formal letter before proceeding with an investigation or resolving the issue. If you are asked to submit a letter of dispute, you will need to write a formal letter to be signed and submitted via email, traditional postage, or by fax. Also, it can be required from you to attach and to send copies of your supporting documentation. Your letter should be typed and include the following:
- Your address
- The address of the company you are working with
- A formal greeting
- The date
- Dates of all transactions
- Details of transactions
- An explanation of the event or charge in dispute
- Your reasoning for the dispute
- Contact information
- Any additional documentation you have to support your dispute
- Your full name.
The Federal Trade Commission provides the following sample letter or template for customers to use when creating their own dispute letters:
- Contact appropriate agencies. There are many consumer protection agencies that can help you resolve issues. Different organizations are available for different types of complaints.
- The Fair Credit Billing Act allows you to dispute charges on your credit card for fraudulent purchases, incorrect charges or deficient merchandise provided the charge was more than $50 and usually within 100 miles from home.
- The Federal Trade Commission allows consumers to file complaints and actually to sue the company. This means you can get your money back for fraudulent charges or unexplained price jumps.
- The Attorney General's office (www.naag.org) in your state will hear complaints and help you arbitrate the case to hopefully resolve the issue. In the case of truly fraudulent activity, your state's Attorney General's Office may choose to build its own case.
- The FCC is able to deal aggressively with internet and cable providers who fail to deliver the services billed. The FCC has specific guidelines about the types of complaints they will assist with, but generally anything that involves getting less service than you were promised or paid for is covered.
- Warn others. If you are dealing with a messy dispute with a company, use numerous review websites like PissedConsumer to warn others about the issue. You may find that others are experiencing the same or similar issue or your complaint may help others avoid the quagmire that you're now in as you work to sort through the dispute. Pissed Consumer also has information about those who have been able to resolve issues with companies and service providers. This information can be valuable as you navigate your own concerns.
The Better Business Bureau also collects consumer experiences and helps to moderate issues that customers bring to its attention. The BBB gives companies a letter grade based on their complaints and their attempts to resolve issues. The BBB may be able to suggest additional resolution measures as well.
While we would love to live in a world where we can count on everything being honest and upfront, the reality is that mistakes happen. Billing mistakes and errors that aren't quite so accidental can add up to large amounts of money over time. Be sure that you're diligent about watching your bills and following up on any concerns you might have. Your bills are expensive enough – there is no need to pay for someone else's error.
- American Express billing dispute
- Aspen Dental bill issues
- Aspen Dental bill problem
- Direct Energy billing complaint
- DirectTV billing complaint
- DirectTV billing issue
- dispute a cable bill
- dispute a medical bill
- dispute a travel bill
- how to dispute a bill
- how to file a dispute
- to dispute a credit card bill
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.