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Specialist Task Force 375: Audit and approval of metering and billing systems

Who we are:

Team Leader: Pierre-Yves Hébert py.hebert@afutt.org
Team Members: Armelle Trotin armelle.trotin@lsti.fr
Thomas Moreau thomas.moreau@araxxe.com
Xavier Lesage xavier.lesage@araxxe.com
Jean-Yves Monfort jeanyves.monfort.6@orange.fr

Why we do it:

At the moment in many countries, electronic communication is the single good whose price is not known exactly before purchasing it and whose metering system is not approved by any formal body.

Charging and billing is one of the life cycle stages whose quality is crucial to the users who want to be sure that every amount in the bill represents and does not exceed the true extent of services actually provided. Consequently, billing is nowadays one of the most recurrent user complaints to the user organizations. In practice, users currently have no means to check possible discrepancies between the bill and the use of services. To overcome this point, it seems that an approval of the providers' metering and billing systems should give confidence to the consumers in their providers' bills.

This lack of a trustworthy provider's metering and billing system is detrimental to the competition and to the consumers' freedom of choice.

The confidence in the metering and billing systems bears on an approval of these systems by a trusted party, as is the case in the United Kingdom or Germany today. Nevertheless, there is currently no European standard available on this issue. and the aim of this STF is to help to fulfil this gap in developing a standard for the accuracy and reliability of the providers' metering and billing systems that can be used as requirements either for approval or conformity assessment or for self-assessment.

This will be done by refining and improving the rules already developed in UK and Germany.

In addition, if a provider wants his metering and billing system to be certified by a third party there is a need, for him, that this party be trustworthy and therefore to be formally recognized for that in this field according to the relevant standards.

For more details, see our Terms of Reference

How we do it:

Two different deliverables will be provided:

  1.  An ETSI Technical Specification (ETSI TS) will detail how to audit the reliability of a metering and billing system: DTS/USER-00026 “User Group; Quality of Telecom Services; Requirements for metering and billing systems”. Scope: The purpose of the action is to detail how to audit a metering and billing system in order to check that all means are taken to ensure that every amount in the bill represents and does not exceed the true extent of services actually provided. It is intended also that this list of requirements should be applicable to any kind of services.
  2. An ETSI TS will detail what are the requirements for a trusted party to provide approval of the metering and billing systems: DTS/USER-00027 – “User Group; Quality of Telecom Services; Conformity assessment; Requirements for bodies providing audit or certification for metering and billing systems”. Scope: The purpose is to detail what are the requirements for a trusted party to provide approval of the metering and billing systems. The aim of the work will be to review the existing standards in the QoS area (ISO 9000, ISO 17021, ISO 20000, etc.) in order to identify what are those applicable to this particular case and to define the additional requirements for bodies providing audits or certification for metering and billing systems.

This project is built on a number of other results from SC USER GROUP and, furthermore, relevant input is expected from other standardisation institutions such as the ITU-T, ANSI and W3C. It will be split into the following four main tasks, based on previous SC USER GROUP work:

1. Review the content of the current practices for Metering and Billing System Approval;

2. Drafting a list of requirements for metering and billing systems;

First step

  • According to the expert experience, identify every possible discrepancy in bills in order to investigate what could be the reason for that and expected size.
  • In particular, identify the possible errors in the content of the Metering and Billing information when such information is made available by a service provider different to the one who sends the bill to the customer. In the same manner, possible errors will be tracked down in the case the service providers and network providers are different or there are multiple service providers.

Second step

  • Review the content of Ofcom documents (Metering and Billing System Approval Scheme Guide, The Oftel Metering and Billing Direction) as well as the RegTP documents (Telecommunications Customer Protection Ordinance -"TKV" §5).
  • What are the issues about counting accuracy and how to ensure the highest possible accuracy is provided?
  • What are the causes for discrepancy between the actual use of the service and the accounting? How to check such discrepancies are avoided?
  • How to ensure the accuracy of the compliance to the published tariff?
  • How to ensure the accuracy of the Metering and Billing information when the service provider is different to the entity that establishes the bill to the customer or if the service provider and network provider are different or there are multiple service providers and network providers.
  • How to avoid limited account undue overrun?
  • How to avoid errors in detailed bill?
  • How to avoid errors in real time expense information?
  • Circulate and comment the drafts to the User Group and STQ

3. Carrying out a validation test in real size with one or two provider

  • Define the perimeter of the tests taking into account cases where the service provider and network provider are different or there are multiple service providers and network providers.
  • Carry out the tests.
  • Process the results and revise the specifications.
  • Present the final draft for approval.

4. Drafting of the requirements for a trusted party to provide approval of the metering and billing systems

  • Review the existing standards in this field and use those appropriate as reference then to add what is specific for an audit and certification for metering and billing systems.
  • Particular care should be given in the case where the service providers and network providers are different or there are multiple service providers and network providers.
  • Present the final draft for approval.

In order to encourage the involvement of and ensure dissemination of information to stakeholders, the STF will, in addition to action as stated in clause 5.2 (e.g. use of web pages), present the findings and standardization proposals in a way that will be organized for the main stakeholders (operators, ISP and regulators) when the work has progressed sufficiently in order to get their advice, comments and reactions.

Time plan for the work:

The ETSI deliverables will be published by 31 October 2010.

The following reports will be submitted to the EC/EFTA:

  • Interim Report by 31 October 2009
  • Final Report by 30 June 2010

In the meantime:

Drafting a list of requirements for metering and billing systems;
Step 1: Identification of metering and billing crucial issues From March 2009
to April 2009
Step 2: Review the content of regulatory documents, issues about counting accuracy, causes for discrepancy between the actual use of the service and the accounting, compliance to the published tariff, 3rd party billing issues, limited account undue overrun, errors in detailed bill, errors in real time expense information. Description of the proposed process controls From April 2009
to October 2009
Step 3: Description of the proposed management controls From April 2009
to October 2009
Carrying out a validation test in real size with one or two providers From October 2009
to January 2010
Drafting of the requirements for a trusted party to provide approval of the metering and billing systems From November 2009
to February 2010

How to contact us:

Pierre-Yves Hébert: py.hebert@afutt.org +33 6 09 40 09 57

 

This information is based upon STF working assumptions.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent the position of ETSI in this context.

Last updated: 2013-04-13 17:31:47