Agency Findings point to Least Cost Routing as potential method for telecom cost reduction

Consumer awareness is growing, but a Canadian agency is finding that it’s not enough to keep subscribers happy. Complaints regarding wireless and land-based phone services more than doubled in 2010-2011, and most of the complaints covered billing errors or contract disputes between wireless providers and the customer, indicating a need for an enhanced focus on least cost routing.

According to this CBC news piece, the agency reported a 114 percent increase overall in complaints during that time period, a significant increase from the 8,007 from the year before. The commission, which was established by the federal government in 2007, helps with consumer complaints against telecom companies.

Besides more attention to the agency, the jump in complaints could also be attributed to a more spending-focused public. Telecom providers have taken notice, too, and are trying the least cost routing option available for all calls to manage costs and try to improve customer perception.

The commission believes the number of complaints will continue to climb as the agency grows in coverage. A recent decision to expand the commission to monitor all telecom service providers will no doubt change things and continue to drive the need for least cost routing.

Data usage charges were at the top of the complaint list. While consumers are struggling to become more aware of their services, the agency’s annual report still found that most consumers don’t know the limits of their plans. In fact, many don’t know how much data they are even using or how it’s being used.

The commission’s report strongly urged the telecom industry to better inform consumers about data measurements, although consumers are encouraged to monitor it themselves, as well. By explaining to a customer what the difference between a megabyte and a gigabyte are, the harder it would be for the customer to say they didn’t understand their data usage.

Trying to educate a consumer on how their phone works is another example. During the research, the Canadian commission found that users had little knowledge as to how applications work while on another application. This obviously caused large amounts of data to be used without the owner’s knowledge, or understanding.

Early termination fees were another complaint filed with the agency. The problem there lies with the inability to confirm the contracts requirements. Yet, the agency stated that while consumers must be certain of what they are signing, providers have a duty to be clear about the details of their contracts.

If service providers were to consider the least cost routing option, hidden fees may not be as productive or as needed among providers and the focus on quality customer care can be restored.

In one case, the agency found that a security hack cost a business about $20,000 in long-distance calls. The contract didn’t clearly state who is responsible for such a situation and the charges were dismissed. Even in this situation, least cost routing may not have prevented the problem.

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