Curious About All Those Fees On BillsWBZ

Taxes and fees bug all of us, but do you ever look closely at some of your bills?

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Bob from Billerica does, and he doesn’t like what he sees.

He Declared his Curiosity to WBZ:

“As I look at my cell phone, telephone, gas and electric bills, we are being taxed left and right.”

That’s almost an understatement, and it’s enough to make you want to shut everything off.

How about a “universal service assessment” on your cell bill, a “conservation charge” for electricity, and a “Federal excise tax” on your home phone.

There’s also the state sales tax, an access fee, an FCC fee, and a 911 fee.

Lori Lynes from North Reading is not happy about any of them.

“Here’s a Franchise Related Cost. Why do I have to pay their franchise cost?” she wondered as she examined her utility bills.


“Each of the little fees accumulates into a lot of money,” Lynes said.

A dollar here, a dollar there, and it all adds up.

A family can easily spend $500 a year in taxes and fees for phones, cable, internet and electricity.

“Why do companies do it? They can get away with it,” said consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, the founder of

He said some of it is an advertising game.

“They want to market to consumers a low price,” said Dworsky.

Something companies couldn’t do if they rolled everything into one big price. And since they’re allowed to break out charges individually, why put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.


They’re not doing anything illegal, but Dworsky said there should be a law which forces these companies to tell customers and prospective customers the full cost of buying service.

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But the companies say most of the charges are for an array of taxes, so those are legitimate items to keep separate.

After all, sales tax isn’t included on the price tag of something you buy.

But what about the fees?

“Those are costs imposed on the company by either a federal, state or local agency,” said Mark Elliott of Sprint.

He said Sprint is just passing those costs along.

However, companies don’t itemize bills for their costs for salaries, web operations or stores.

But Elliott said these fees are different, and noted that they can change frequently.

“It’s not easy for us to build it into the cost of doing business,” he added.


State and Federal governments get the taxes for their general funds or for earmarked services like enhanced 911.

The fees go to the companies and are used to pay all those imposed regulatory costs.

Is there anything customers can do?

“You can write to your Congressperson,” said consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky.

But since they’re the ones who keep slapping taxes on everything, don’t hold your breathe.

It’s often difficult to decipher these bills.

The best way to do that is to go to the company website and search for an explainer. Try searching “taxes and fees,” or “surcharges.”

And of course, you can always call them.

You can join the conversation. “Declare your Curiosity,” and tell us what you want to know.

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