Phone Bill Charges
The State Corporation Commission receives calls from Virginians with questions and
complaints about the list of fees appearing on local telephone bills. The various
taxes, fees and surcharges can amount to a significant portion of the total monthly
bill for basic local telephone service.
The following surcharges appear on most residential telephone bills in Virginia.
However, they do not fall under the direct regulatory authority of the SCC. (Links
to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or other agency for additional information
are shown where applicable):
Virginia Communication Sales Tax
This 5 percent communications tax is collected by service providers on a monthly
basis and remitted to the Virginia Department of Taxation.
Subscriber Line Charge ("SLC," pronounced "slick")
This is an end-user fee paid to local telephone companies that is allowed by the
FCC. It can be as much as $6.50 per month for residential lines. This charge is
intended to allow local telephone companies to recover a portion of the interstate
costs associated with a subscriber’s local telephone line to access the interstate
long distance network. It helps keep interstate long distance rates low. The State
Corporation Commission has not established a similar intrastate charge.
Universal Service Charges
Telephone subscribers also may be seeing charges on their local, long distance and
cellular bills for universal service. Companies are required by the FCC to contribute
to a federal universal service fund to support telephone service for high-cost areas,
low-income subscribers, schools, libraries, and rural health care providers. Even
though the FCC did not direct these companies to pass these charges along to their
customers, many have chosen to do so. These universal service fees vary by amount
and structure, and by company.
Public Rights-of-Way Fee
A law passed by the 1998 Virginia General Assembly authorizes this monthly charge
(currently 97¢ per line) to appear on customer bills in some parts of the Commonwealth.
The fee pays for telephone company access to the rights-of-way of public property.
City and County governments and the Virginia Department of Transportation incur
expenses when phone companies need to disturb streets and highways to install or
Authorized by the Virginia General Assembly, this 75¢-per-line tax is imposed by
localities to pay for the cost of an emergency response communications system that
identifies both the caller and the location of the call. The General Assembly also
authorized a 75¢ per month charge on wireless telephone customers. This money will
pay for highly sophisticated equipment that pinpoints, by satellite, the location
of a wireless 911 caller.
Like many other goods and services purchased by consumers, certain telephone services
are taxed by federal, state and local governments. These taxes vary by locality
and level of phone usage.
Consumer Alert: Watch for unknown charges
Telephone customers should carefully scrutinize their monthly local phone bill for
charges from unknown entities for unwanted services or products. Local telephone
companies often bill for long distance companies and other companies that provide
non-regulated and non-telecommunications services and products. As a result, customers
may discover they have been "slammed" - switched from their long distance service
provider or local service provider without authorizing the change, or “crammed”
- charged for services and products that were never requested. Customers should
contact their local telephone company to have any such charges removed from their
bill, or to be switched back to their preferred long distance company. Consumers
can protect themselves from unauthorized charges by requesting a third party block
from their local service provider.
Customers should expect their local telephone service provider to capably answer
all questions about charges that appear on the monthly bill. (If questions involve
long distance charges of another company, in some cases customers may need to call
that company directly.) If a customer is not satisfied with the response, then the
State Corporation Commission’s Division of Public Utility Regulation can offer assistance.
The toll-free number is 1-800-552-7945, or the division can be contacted directly,
(804) 371-9675, or by e-mail at UtilityReg@scc.virginia.gov.
Revised October 2016