Watch Out for These 7 Internet Billing Mistakes

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Last Updated: Dec 7, 2022
A person using a calculator on a desk with a laptop
Paying bills can be taxing, but it doesn’t have to be stressful.

Paying bills is something we all have to do, but very few of us actually enjoy it. Whether it’s an unexpected price hike or the almost unreadable lines of disclaimer text, bills are prone to causing headaches. While paying for bills online does alleviate some issues – your payment is less likely to be late, for example – it’s still easy to submit the amount owed and forget about it.

That may be the easy solution, but it’s far from ideal. In truth, both the consumer and the internet provider can make mistakes, and these errors will literally cost you. While going through bills with a fine-toothed comb isn’t fun, it will prevent future headaches. Our guide points out the most common billing mistakes, and what you can do to avoid them.

Triple Check Which Bill You’re Paying

Whether you sift through your bills online or on paper, you can still end up paying for the wrong service each month. If you’re paying a bill online, you’re most likely doing it through the company’s website, so you’re safe on that front. But if you’re paying bills in bulk, you’re operating on autopilot. You might have the correct amount inputted to pay off your internet bill, but instead, you’re somehow paying the telephone company instead. While it’s possible to reverse such errors by getting in touch with the company, it may take weeks to undo the damage.

Similarly, you should always check which bank account or credit card you’re using when paying online. Potentially overdrafting an account and making a late payment is already petrifying. You might as well double-check your math; using a calculator is worth it!

Check When Promotional Rates End

Person using a smartphone for online banking
Autopay is useful, but sometimes you might want to pay manually.

Let’s say you recently switched internet providers. When you enrolled with the new provider, it offered internet service for $39.99 per month. This lasted for a few months – maybe even a year – until suddenly, the rate goes up to $59.99 per month. Why is that? Most likely, your plan started with a promotional rate, not the regular one. If this is news to you, get in touch with customer service and explain the situation.

The same rule applies if your provider changed the rate without outlining it in the disclaimer. It’s within your rights as a consumer to know of any price changes on its services. If customer service refuses to lower your rate or offer a discount, it’s time to find a new provider.

Hunt Down Hidden Fees

If the sudden spike in pricing isn’t due to the end of a promotional rate, then it’s most likely due to new charges. Internet providers may slip in hidden and unexpected fees when charging customers every month. These fees range from equipment rental fees for modems and routers to sticking with paper billing. It’s also possible that you’re charged for a service or upgrade you didn’t want. Again, if this happens to you, call customer service for clarification.

Ensure Your Information Is Accurate

Most web browsers offer an option to save and autofill your information when using secure websites. For example, you can save your address and the browser will fill it in automatically the next time you buy something. This is great when you want to take care of a task quickly, but when it’s as vital as paying a bill, it may become a hindrance.

If you’re paying a bill online and autofill activates, review the fields it fills out for you. Check that it has your latest address, especially if you recently moved. If you got married, your last name might’ve changed. It’s possible that the web browser will ask if you want to save your payment information to make the checkout process faster next time. Rule of thumb: check your autofill information and make any necessary adjustments.

Clear Terms and Conditions

While few of us actually read the terms and conditions set by our internet providers, parts of the contract should be clearly stated. Due dates, late fees, taxes, and monthly rates – your provider should spell out all of these when you sign the contract. Still, it’s not uncommon to hear people complain about providers being vague when it comes to the fine print.

It’s your provider’s job to explain the agreement unless it wants to lose you as a loyal customer. If a bill arrives and it says “pay within 30 days,” it should specify whether that’s 30 days from sending the bill or 30 days from you receiving it. If the payment is late because it’s unclear what’s being asked of you, the fault lies with the company, not you. Always ask for clarification if you’re confused.

Limited Payment Options

A person paying on a laptop with a credit card
Paying online gives you more freedom in payment options.

If you’re paying online, you’re not paying in cash. For extra security, though, you might want to use PayPal or a similar third-party service to speed up the process. Just make sure the provider accepts PayPal as a form of online payment; otherwise, you’ll have to pay directly from your card.

Both businesses and consumers should do their best to have a variety of payment options. Customers don’t want a bill to be late because the provider doesn’t accept the card with the funds to pay the bill. Similarly, providers don’t want to lose customers simply because of their limited options. Diversifying payment is the ideal outcome for both sides!

Request an Itemized Bill

This is less a mistake and more of a tip to make paying bills – and spotting actual mistakes – easier. Most businesses offer itemized receipts or bills that show customers how much they’re being charged for each product or service. For example, a restaurant bill lists each entree, dessert, drink, and appetizer ordered, alongside its cost. This makes it easier for a party to split the bill or for someone to realize they were charged for something they didn’t order.

While most internet companies already send itemized bills, it might not be the default. If you’re having trouble deciphering your bill, request an itemized bill for both the current billing cycle and the ones after. This is especially useful if multiple people are using the same internet plan. You and all the parties involved will have a better time tracking each individual’s usage before asking for their fair share.