New approach to customer billing


6th April 2005

The future for customer billing will become clearer as the result of a new draft standard now out for consultation. BSI (British Standards Institution) has issued a Draft for Public Comment (DPC) on customer billing, specifying how suppliers of utility and other services can provide clear and accurate bills for their customers.

The proposed Specification for customer billing practice is applicable to a wide range of services including not only the traditional utilities, such as water, gas and electricity, but also more recently introduced services for which similar billing practice is required, such as mobile phone and internet service providers.

BSI British Standards Committee Manager, Brian Such, said, "This standard has been developed to improve the billing process for both companies and consumers. It will help businesses produce clearer, more precise bills and help their customers understand them." Service providers, particularly those in the utilities sector, invest considerable financial and other resources dealing with complaints and late payment resulting from misunderstandings and misinterpretations of their billing.

"Organisations that undertake periodic billing have a huge task to manage their billing process efficiently and effectively. This new specification for customer billing will streamline this process and hopefully reduce customer enquiries as well," said Mr Such.

The draft standard specifies the minimum requirements for suppliers of services that carry out periodic billing. The requirements apply to both the billing process and the billing document itself.

The primary objective of the draft standard is that it should assist service providers with the presentation of information essential to the understanding and timely settlement of bills. This is achieved by providing a common framework that specifies the content of the "principal page" and its presentation in a way that minimises ambiguity and confusion.

In addition, the draft standard seeks to encourage consistent use of a common terminology across all service providers and sets out generic requirements for the accurate and efficient preparation and processing of bills.

The standard aims to:

  • Set minimum standards of billing services for consumers
  • Give consumers a clearer understanding and greater certainty of the billing process
  • Minimise complaints by addressing issues that have been the source of frequent complaints about billing
  • Promote informed customer choice
  • Provide assistance in meeting corporate social responsibility obligations

The draft standard avoids an unduly prescriptive approach, allowing service providers to organise their procedures in the manner that best suits their business. As such, it offers a common set of ground rules that provide a solid foundation for the provision of high standards of service in this frequently sensitive area.

Mr Such commented, "We hope the draft standard will be welcomed by companies and their customers, and we’re looking forward to their feedback."

The DPC is open for responses until 31 May 2005.

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