AT&T Billing Practices Alarm Many Consumers
Bell Atlantic Responds to Thousands of Customers
August 24, 1999
NEW YORK -- Bell Atlantic has put approximately 12,000 of its service
representatives on alert in the face of an increasing number of calls from
customers who reportedly are confused and angry with AT&T's changing
This summer, AT&T added a $3 monthly minimum usage charge to its
bills, and is billing some customers every two or three months instead of
monthly. The combined practices can easily double a subscriber's long
distance phone bill.
Bell Atlantic estimates thousands of customers have called with questions
as AT&T's billing practices became increasingly evident.
"We are concerned that these policies affect people who are trying to
save money and make very few long distance calls," said Fred
D'Alessio, group president -- Bell Atlantic Consumer Services.
"Many of our customers are surprised and dismayed when they see
AT&T's charges. Worse yet, some customers tell us AT&T has been
difficult to reach, and they say issues aren't always resolved to customers'
satisfaction. I'm deeply worried that this policy is going to hurt fixed
income and elderly consumers throughout our service territory."
Bell Atlantic employees report that they are left on hold when they call
AT&T to assist customers. Bell Atlantic service representatives also have
sent faxes to AT&T asking the company to contact its customers, but some
customers report that AT&T hasn't called back.
"The ramifications of AT&T's new billing policies are
serious," D'Alessio noted. "AT&T still holds the lion's share
of the residential long distance market in our region."
In July, AT&T announced it would step up its policy of billing low-
volume, long-distance customers in two- and three-month increments.
This is a money-saving measure. As a result, customers who make fewer
than $30 in long-distance calls in a given month may be forced to wait
before they see long-distance charges on their bills.
Initial complaints about AT&T's billing practices surfaced in
Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Delaware last week. Bell Atlantic is
looking into potential problems in other states.
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry.
With more than 43 million telephone access lines and nearly 10 million wireless
customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced
wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's
largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the
world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations
and investments in 23 countries.