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airship
26th Apr 2009, 18:26
After all the recent but especially 'EU-origin' initiatives aimed at lowering the costs of using a mobile phone, if anything, I find myself paying substantially more on average, in spite of subscribing to my operator's upgraded 'Pro' formula with option of 'free national calls' when calling from within my 'home area'...?! :confused:

So I started thinking about it all. The 'metering' is all done 'in-house' isn't it...?! Unlike the 'certified' electricity or water-meters installed at your home, these companies operate their own 'metering' technologies.

To what standards and certification (if any) have 'the watchdogs' that our governments employ for 'consumer protection', so far detected any analomies in this regime...?!

I mean, what public organisation exists to contradict or even question that instead of having used up your mobile phone credits for a call which lasted all of apparently 1m30s in real time, the particular call lasted perhaps 4m30s 'in operator's time'...?! :ok:

mixture
26th Apr 2009, 20:02
In the UK, see the General Conditions of Entitlement based on the Communications Act 2003.

You can download it here :
General Conditions | Ofcom (http://www.ofcom.org.uk/telecoms/ioi/g_a_regime/gce/)

See part 11, for example, part 11.1 of the afore mentioned quite explicitly states :
The Communications Provider shall not render any bill to an End-User in respect of the provision of any Public Electronic Communications
Services unless every amount stated in that bill represents and does
not exceed the true extent of any such service actually provided to the
End-User in question.


The same will probably apply accross the EU because the new telecoms regime is based upon legislation dreamed up in Brussels.

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer and don't work in the telecomms industry, so do your own homework before believing what I say !


P.S..
I mean, what public organisation exists to contradict ....

In the UK, OfCom is the government body. And under the communications act mentioned above, providers are required to subscribe to an independent "dispute resolution service"

Therefore you can address your complaints to either.

And of course, if you feel sufficiently aggrieved, you can always drag them through the courts.... :cool:

(There are also Trading Standards and the ASA for specific types of cases)

Is that public enough for you ?

detected any analomies in this regime...?!

Suggest you file an FOI with OfCom ?

airship
26th Apr 2009, 21:33
"We have to take their (the operator's) word for it then!"

Would anyone pay their electricity, water or gas bills on this basis...?! :confused: :}

mixture
26th Apr 2009, 22:17
"We have to take their (the operator's) word for it then!"

Huh ? Who said that ?

I made it clear in my post that there are many indpendent means available for you to vent your disatisfaction with a telecomms bill ?


Would anyone pay their electricity, water or gas bills on this basis...?!

What makes you think electricity companies are perfect ?

I'm currently busy quering an "estimated" electricity bill ... and know of others who have experienced "estimated" and other questionable billing practices.

Rwy in Sight
26th Apr 2009, 22:53
Some mobiles show the duration of incoming calls. I understand when special deals are involved that throws off the counting but it is worth trying out. At least you will have a general idea.

Rwy in Sight

Jofm5
27th Apr 2009, 00:10
As a software developer having worked on many billing systems and currently writing a bespoke one there are a number of points that I can address here:-

1)

Would anyone pay their electricity, water or gas bills on this basis...?!

Telecoms billing is not that dissimilar utilities billing as in it's simplest form you have a unit price (in telecoms 1 second, in Electricity 1kwh) and in its simplest form you multiply units by unit price. However since telecoms margins have dwindled tariffs have become more complex and you might not get the answer your expecting.

2)

Mixture is correct, your final port of call if you are unhappy with your bill and how it is calculated is via a report to ofcom who regulate the industry. However your correct procedure (and ofcom will not entertain you unless you follow this) is to go your telecoms provider first, if dissatisfied with that then arbitration and if found in your favour report to ofcom.

3) It is not unheard of for smaller telecoms companies to perform illicit acts - especially within the calling card market. Ofcom has the power to revoke these operators licenses and levy huge fines (which it has displayed in previous cases).

4)

The fine print is what you need to look at, how is the tariff structured - some tariffs look great on paper and are if you stick within the bounderies. E.G. Free evening and weekend calls (in small print it will say for the first hour - some may then charge the whole call if it exceeds the hour and some may charge the portion after the hour - ASA is trying to clear up the selling of these tariffs).

In the USA they work on the 30+6 principle, whereby a call is charged on a per unit price e.g. 1pence and a unit is 6 seconds however the minumum call cost is 30 seconds (5p).

5)

You need to understand the terminoligy used in tariffs as this is what contractually binds you to what they are going to charge you. e.g.

A). Call Setup Fee (e.g. if its 1p per seconds and the call setup charge is 5p then a 1 second call would be 6p).

B). Minimum call charge (the minimum cost of a call, e.g. if its 1p per second and the minimum call charge is 5p then a 1second call would cost 5p).

C) Unit based billing vs Minute based billing (Very uncommon to find minute based billing on residential tariffs). The legal blurb within the contract will refer to a minute as being a unit thus allowing them to charge you for a whole minute used or part there-of - with per minute billing you will be charged a per minute fee but down to the seconds used. This is not normally used on residential as it reduces margins and means you can be charged fractions of a pence for a call (e.g. a 1p per minute rate) - this is used in wholse sale carrier business mainly.

D) EBC (Element based charging) is the method BT use to calculate call costs - its a highly complex matrix which identifies the source and destination nodes on the telecoms network where the call is ingress and egress from and calculates the optimal path of the call (The physical path may be different due to network conditions e.g. congestion) - this is how you figure out your local, regional and national rates. If you do not have a BT Option X priceplan and stick to the more expensive default you will be billed in this manner.

E) Cross Band Billing - Does your tariff include cross band billing, this is a typical way for misunderstandings to take place. For example BT use Day, Evening and Weekend Rates - if your tariff is billed in a cross band fashion then a call that starts in the day band and continues into either evening or weekend will have different parts of the call rated differently. However if its not a cross band tariff then the whole call will be charged at the price point the original call started at.


F) Finally number type.

Any number not starting with 01 or 02 (e.g. 0161 or 0207) is considered a premium rate number and as such will not fall within any free call allowances on the majority of both Mobile and traditional TDM networks (e.g. BT/Virgin). In these cases calls are rated much different as charging schemes are split between the calling party and the called party. E.G. The called party will pay the call cost for 0800 numbers, 0845 and 0870 numbers the called party will recieve part of the revenue collected by BT and the same for Mobiles and 09XXX Premium rate (e.g. for a premium rate line of 150p per minute BT will take around 20p for handling and pass on the rest to the called party).

If you wish to provide an example I can probably tell you quite quickly how it is being charged and whether it is correct or not.

Cheers

Jof

Rollingthunder
27th Apr 2009, 00:30
Billings are the least of your worries.
Government plans to monitor all your calls and internet e-mails.
And spend 12B of your tax pounds doing do.

Plus being the most surveillanced camed poeple in the world.

You got some seriously warped government. not that the next one will be any better.

Jofm5
27th Apr 2009, 00:40
Billings are the least of your worries.
Government plans to monitor all your calls and internet e-mails.


A bit late if your worried about that - ECHELON started doing this in the 70's - the only recent change is that the government (EU Directorate) has made us keep calls "Online and Immediately Available" for the last 12 months, readily available (Within a couple of days) for the last 24 months and to be not destroyed for at least 3 years (It was already 6 in the UK).

They still need a court order to demand access to this information the telecoms provider just must ensure they are able to fulfill that requirement.

Tho sadly I have consulted at places that blindly just give the authorities what they ask for without bothering to ensure a complicit order was in place (the old bill are not going to complain about co-operation when it breaks the law). Last place I was at I was asked to give SO13 some details and I refused without having an undertaking in writing from the CTO that it was on his head and not mine as I provided a warning that it would be illegal otherwise - alas got a headed piece of paper hand written and told to just do it :uhoh:.

mixture
27th Apr 2009, 09:21
A lot of good stuff in Jofm5's first post.... :ok:

There's also a lot of interesting stuff out there on the internet...such as an analysis of an American "Friends & Family" programme The Value of MCI's Friends & Family (http://www.servicelevel.net/rating_matters/MCI.htm), a very simplisitc introduction to Block of Time rating from the telco's point of view Block of Time Rating (http://www.servicelevel.net/rating_matters/newsletters/issue15.htm).

airship
27th Apr 2009, 12:47
A lot of good stuff in Jofm5's first post.... :ok: And ditto the 2nd :ok:

I guess that if I really needed a truly independent accounting of call duration etc., I could just make a request under the Freedom of Information Act and address it to Echelon - anyone have their postal address btw...?!

Oh, Last place I was at I was asked to give SO13 some details and I refused without having an undertaking in writing from the CTO that it was on his head and not mine as I provided a warning that it would be illegal otherwise - alas got a headed piece of paper hand written and told to just do it :uhoh: I don't understand why 'they' don't just install key-logger software on PCs at all the ISPs and phone companies. I mean, the Chinese already do that don't they? Or else the CTO somehow lets slip out someone's username and password to avoid the rigmarole?! :}

PS. I can just imagine George Orwell shifting slightly in his grave: "But I told you so..."

Blacksheep
27th Apr 2009, 13:47
For privacy its best to send a letter. Its anonymous, easily encrypted, protected by law and the evidence can be swallowed.

All spies, terrorists and other criminals know that :rolleyes:

mixture
27th Apr 2009, 15:01
I don't understand why 'they' don't just install key-logger software on PCs at all the ISPs and phone companies. I mean, the Chinese already do that don't they?

It's all very complicated. Well beyond the sort of thing that should be covered in the misc pages on an aviation forum.

In a very simplistic summary, the reason the Chinese can do it is because the government appears to have retained control of all international cable landing points in China. Therefore nothing can enter or leave the country without passing through government black boxes.

I would assume the same sort of scenario would (or could) exist in countries where telecomms remains a highly regulated activity.

The situation in the more degregulated "Western" telecommunications market, it's all very different.

It's largely down to the way things are setup, and the fact there is no standard way to become an "ISP" ..... there are a multitude of different options in terms of infrastructure, connectivity, etc.

Infact, if a British ISP decided to keep a copy of all traffic without a suitable warrant, they would quickly find themselves hauled up infront of a judge to answer questions under the CMA, DPA and all sorts of other legislation that has been put in place to fight such abuse.

Of course, the conspiracy theorists amongst you might start making allegations of "them watching us anyway" .... but in the UK at least, there seems to be a very clear cut system requiring warrants in order to intercept communications. If you have hard evidence otherwise, then please do share.

mixture
27th Apr 2009, 15:05
send a letter. Its anonymous

DNA
Fingerprints
Postmarks

If they want to hunt you down, they wil.... :cool: