While it may be reasonable for a family with four children to have an extremely high water bill, you and your spouse should not, unless you filled your pool this past month. If you find that you are dealing with a bill that is excessive, especially when compared to your past bills, or have a charge that you never authorized, you have the right to dispute the bill. Being organized and taking the right attitude during this process will do much to help you get your bill lowered.
Decide on a realistic amount for your settlement. Do not expect the bill to be written off completely, but ask for something that seems realistic compared to your history.
Call the company that issued the bill. Have your current bill, any past bills and any canceled checks that relate to that account with you. Take notes on the conversation.
Present a firm and aggressive yet pleasant attitude when dealing with the customer service representative.
Record the date and time as well as the customer service representative's name, identification number and extension before you begin talking. Ask if there is a case number, and find out how long it will take for a resolution to be presented.
Ask the representative to examine your current bill with you line by line as you look for errors or the source of the unexpected charges.
Send a letter to the company outlining your concerns after the call. Include information collected in the phone call, and sign the letter.
Pursue outside help if calling and writing to the company does not work. State agencies, consumer advocacy groups and some federal agencies can help consumers dispute bills.
Some disputes can be handled by federal agencies. For example, the Federal Communications Commission will accept complaints that deal with the telecommunications industry. The Federal Trade Commission will assist consumers dealing with bills that contain charges they did not authorize. If you have trouble with the representative, call at another time to speak to someone else. If the second call is no better, ask to speak with a manager. When calls are not enough and you are disputing a utility bill, seek the help of your state's public utilities commission or the National Association of State Utility Advocates. Call during times that are not normally busy. For most companies, Friday mornings are slow times. Mondays and the day after a holiday are usually busy.
Getting angry with the customer service representative is not going to help you get your bill lowered. While you do need to be firm, you also need to be kind. Remember, the customer service representative is not the one who made the mistake on your bill. They are just doing their job. Always make the call quickly after you notice the problem with your bill. This is especially true if you are disputing a charge on your credit card, as credit card companies generally have a set period of time in which a charge can be disputed.
- Vangelis Thomaidis