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Disconnecting Unneeded Telecoms Services Can Be Complicated & Costly

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Telecommunications service providers are always happy to sell you new services, but disconnecting existing services is another story altogether. Yet there are many instances when you need to remove services such as:
  • Upgrading telecommunications technology to VoIP or a cloud-based system
  • Relocating your organization to a new address
  • Downsizing
  • Purpose of service is no longer in use (such as a fax or modem line)
  • Lower cost services have become available
  • Changing to a new service provider
Here are some things to be aware of when you are ready to place disconnect orders. One would think disconnecting unneeded telecommunications services and stopping the billing would be a no-brainer. But here are ten reasons why it’s not:
1. Telecommunications services providers have different procedures for disconnecting services. Sometimes the disconnect procedure depends on the service. And different service provider departments may handle different types of service disconnects.
2. To disconnect service, you need both the account number under which the service is billed and the service identifier (such as a circuit number). For services that have been working for years, the circuit numbers may not be easy to get and are not necessarily listed on your monthly invoice. If you are a large organization, you may enlist the help of your account team, but often smaller organizations are “on their own” in figuring this out. We see that even account executives from your service providers often have a hard time getting the detail from their own company.
3. Some services you buy have multiple components with separate monthly charges. Disconnect orders require specifying each of these components. To add to the complexity, sometimes components of the same circuit appear on different monthly billing accounts. For example, a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network circuit has a “managed service” component. With older circuits, this component may appear on a separate account from the main circuit. It’s not uncommon to see component “orphan charges” billing for years after the service with which they were associated were disconnected.
4. If you add to or upgrade services from your telecommunications service provider, they are not typically responsible for disconnecting and stopping billing on services you are replacing. When you contract for new services, try to add language to your agreement that makes the provider responsible, including financially. Ideally, you should identify all services getting replaced before signing up for something new. If you are expecting to reduce expenses, you can’t confirm the reduction if you have not documented the cost of what you are replacing. You can request a “first bill review” from your service provider, which may help after making changes, but you still need to do your own checking.
5. In every case, get an order number (or another identifier) and a “bill to” date, after which the billing will stop. Confirm you have this in writing from your telecommunications service provider (a confirming email will suffice). Ideally, the order number will appear on your monthly bill when the billing stops, enabling you to identify the transaction, but this isn’t always the case.
6. Your telecommunications service provider likely has a written Service Level Agreement (SLA) that states how many days they can continue to bill services after you request the disconnect. For example, some international circuits require 90 days from the date of request and domestic circuits 60 days. So in these cases, your “bill to” date is when those periods are up.
7. Since billing rarely stops on the “bill to” date, it will likely take several billing cycles for the charges to come off, and there may be pro-rated credits back to the “bill to” date. Different service providers have different approaches to showing that billing has stopped and credit has been applied. But it’s rare for this detail to be evident, so diligence is needed to confirm that charges have stopped and the monthly bill was reduced by the expected amount (don’ forget related taxes and surcharges that should stop too).
8. Before issuing a disconnect order, check if the service you are disconnecting is still under contract. If it is, there may be a “termination liability” charge which in some cases amounts to paying the full rate for the service through the contract expiration date. (This liability may have been negotiable when you first initiated the contract.)
9. Determine if the service you are disconnecting will significantly affect any “Minimum Annual Spend” commitment you’ve contracted for with your telecommunications service provider. If it does, the financial penalty can be significant. So it’s better to discuss this with your account executive before proceeding as often there is some flexibility.
10. When the service is finally disconnected, make sure to update your records to indicate that the service is gone. If you have a Telecommunications Expense Management system (TEM), make sure to notify your TEM provider and confirm that your records have been accurately updated.
If you don’t want to “try this at home,” help is always a phone call or email away to a member of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants Audit and Expense Management specialists.

Jane is writing on behalf of the SCTC, a premier professional organization for independent consultants. SCTC consultant members are leaders in the industry, able to provide best of breed professional services in a wide array of technologies. Every consultant member commits annually to a strict Code of Ethics, ensuring they work for the client benefit only and do not receive financial compensation from vendors and service providers.