Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Can You Hear Me Now???

Let me set up this story for you. My mother is 82 years old and is living in a wonderful extended care facility in St Petersburg, Florida. She's been there for about 3 years and she simply loves it. With the medical care requirements being so technical and her needing attended to all through out the day, it would be impossible for her to get that same amount of care and attention at any other location.
Bon Secours Maria Manor

She has all the comforts of home including TV, refrigerator, three hot meals a day, all in bed, a roommate and plus plenty of interaction with other people. Oh, and a telephone. A "land line". Through Verizon.

We selected the very basic home package the company had; Local calls only, no long distance. That works fine, all her kids and family lives locally and any friend that lives far away always calls her. She is allowed 30 outgoing calls a month. That might sound low but she'll go for a week or more without calling anyone, we all call her. Incoming calls are unlimited. 

Even if she went over her allotted 30 out-going calls she would just have to pay a small charge for every call over the 30. That has never happened.

She gets all this service for $11.99 a month. Sounds like a good deal huh? I have the monthly bill sent to me and I make the payment. The average bill is usually $22.26 each month..... Let's recap. The phone plan costs $11.99 each month. I pay $22.26 each month. Why?

Because of "Taxes, Fees and Other Charges". That's what the section of the bill says right below the heading that says "Current Charges Subtotal..$11.99".

Here is the breakdown for those "Taxes, Fees and Other Charges":

Taxes, Government Surcharges and Fees
Federal Excise Tax..................................   .55
FL Local Communications Services Tax.....  1.21 
Fl State Gross Receipts Tax.....................    .46
Telecommunications Relay Service...........    .11
County 911 Funding Fee..........................    .50

Verizon Surcharges and Other Charges and Credits
Federal Universal Service Fee....................  .94
Federal subscriber line charge................... 6.50
Total taxes, Fees and Other Charges........ $10.27

An Example of A Verizon Bill, Not Mom's

So $11.99 for the phone service and $10.27 for the taxes and fees, for a total of $22.26. Wow. The taxes and fees are almost as much as the entire charge for the phone service!

And does any consumer really understand what those taxes and fees actually are for? I don't. "Telecommunication Relay Service"? "Gross Receipts Tax"? "Communications Services Tax"? How about the "Universal Service Fee"? Does that actually cover the entire universe? And the largest charge of all, the "Federal Subscriber Line Charge"? When did I "subscribe"? And what did I subscribe for? Magazines? 

To be fair, I know that there has to be taxes and fees for certain things in this world. I can understand the "County 911 funding fee". As a retired law enforcement officer I must admit I am quite fond of the 911 system and 50 cents a month doesn't bother me. But the remaining fees really bug me. I'd rather pay a 7% state sales tax on the phone service or even a 10% total tax to be split by the state and federal government, even though I can't figure out why our federal government is getting a penny for a service that is being sold by a private company.

So take a peek at you next phone bill and see how you are being charged. And if you ever find out how I can "unsubscribe" to the Federal subscriber line, please let me know.

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