In such cases, experts recommend submitting complaints in writing and documenting all steps. In general, it is advisable to check your telecommunications bills regularly – cellular as well as landline.
Consumers should pay particular attention if the required amount is higher than usual. Anyone who cannot explain such a discrepancy or who immediately identifies an error should contact their provider directly as a first step, explains Urs Mansmann from the specialist magazine “c’t”. The right contact can usually be found directly on the invoice.
Complaints with specific reasons must be made within eight weeks of receipt of the invoice, informs the North Rhine-Westphalia consumer center. However, providers could set a longer period for this in their general terms and conditions.
Complaints are best in writing
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Of course, you can also call the provider first. A specific form of contact is not required, explains lawyer Kuga Theesan Selva from the consumer center. For reasons of evidence, however, it is advisable to submit complaints in text form.
With a bit of luck, everything will dissolve in favor: Either the invoice is corrected or you discover that the invoice is correct after all. If this is not the case or if there is disagreement, customers should object to this invoice, i.e. notify the provider in writing and verifiably that this invoice is incorrect and why.
Evidence of individual connections and technical testing
If the provider confirms that the invoice is incorrect, there must be a new version. “In the event of a complaint, the provider must break down the individual connection data as proof of payment,” explains Fiete Wulff, spokesman for the Federal Network Agency. If technical defects cannot be excluded, the provider must also carry out a technical examination.
Attorney Selva therefore recommends that you immediately request proof of individual connections and the technical test at the same time as the complaint.
If it can be proven that services were incorrectly calculated, you do not have to pay anything. This is the case, for example, if the required fees are proven not to be due to the use of the connection by the owner but by an unauthorized third party, says Selva. However, the owner of the connection must have done everything possible to prevent this unintentional use.
Third Party Claims
In the case of mobile phone bills in particular, items for third-party services may appear that consumers knowingly neither ordered nor used, explains Urs Mansmann. These can be subscriptions to information and entertainment services or fee-based services, hotlines and announcement services.
If the problem involves prepaid products, the money has usually already been paid for. “Providers like to refer to the third-party providers as if they weren’t responsible,” says Mansmann. It pays to be persistent here. In order to prevent prepaid credit from disappearing quietly, the expert strongly recommends inexperienced users in particular to set up a third-party block for one-time payments and subscriptions.
Should you settle the bill in the meantime or not? “If you don’t pay the bill, you run the risk of developing an unattractive momentum, including reminders and reminder fees,” says Mansmann. However, the provider may only block a connection if the customer is in arrears with at least 75 euros. The blocking must be announced two weeks in advance.
Info box: Where to find help
You can get help with trouble with telco bills at low cost from consumer advice centers, says Urs Mansmann from the “c’t” specialist magazine. “This is mostly about very small amounts in dispute. If I go to the lawyer with it, he won’t have a lot of resources left. “
Customers can also use a Dispute settlement procedure set in motion at the Federal Network Agency. An application can be made online for this, explains authority spokesman Fiete Wulff. The dispute settlement procedure is an out-of-court conciliatory procedure that costs nothing for consumers. Only evidence should be submitted, particularly correspondence with the company.