Bell Atlantic Escalates War on 'Crammers,' Enables Customers to Block Miscellaneous Charges

Bell Atlantic Escalates War on 'Crammers,'
Enables Customers to Block Miscellaneous

First Phone Company in Nation to Take Such Bold Action

June 29, 1999


Paul Miller,

Mark Marchand,

NEW YORK -- Starting today, Bell Atlantic customers from Maine to the
Virginias can protect themselves from having fraudulent charges
appearing on their phone bills. Bell Atlantic, a recognized leader in
combating the fraudulent practice of "cramming," is the first
telephone company in the country to offer customers the option of
blocking "miscellaneous" charges. Miscellaneous charges
are usually monthly expenses unrelated to actual telephone usage, like
voice mail and Web-page design and maintenance.

Cramming, which surfaced late in 1997, is the practice of putting bogus
miscellaneous charges that are unrelated to basic telephone use on phone

"We have made it clear from the outset that Bell Atlantic has no
patience for companies that use our bills to take unfair advantage of our
customers," said Fred D'Alessio, group
president for Bell Atlantic Consumer Services. "This is truly one of
the most important customer-care initiatives our business has undertaken.
Today's action hammers another nail into the coffins of those who prey on
the innocent and unsuspecting."

The blocking option does not apply to charges from Bell Atlantic or the
customer's selected local-toll and long distance companies. In addition,
customers who choose this option could still be billed by Bell Atlantic for
calls they make using other providers, such as "10-10" dial-
around companies, since such charges are not considered miscellaneous.

Residential customers who wish to block such services from their phone
bills can do so, starting today, by calling the appropriate toll-free number
for their place of residence: 1-800-249-8719 for New York and the New
England states and 1-888-579-8926 for Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Business customers can sign up by contacting the Bell Atlantic business

"Our customers can now make a choice as to whether they want
these miscellaneous charges appearing on their bill," D'Alessio said.
"Some may elect to keep the charges on the bill, because in many
instances they are for legitimate services that the customer may want to

Bell Atlantic's efforts to protect its customers from cramming have served
as a model for the rest of the telecommunications industry. Since
launching its initiatives over a year ago, the company has discontinued
providing billing services to some 80 telecommunications service
providers. The move resulted in a decline of more than 80 percent in the
number of cramming complaints from Bell Atlantic customers.

"A year or so ago we were averaging some 30,000 complaints a
month related to cramming," D'Alessio said. "And most of
those complaints pointed to a few bad apples." Since taking action
against these suspected crammers, Bell Atlantic's complaints from
residential customers have plunged to roughly 5,000 a month.

Bell Atlantic, which serves 22 million households on the east coast,
provides billing services for a wide variety of telecommunications
providers. Many customers prefer having all of their telecommunications
services on one bill.

Last summer, Bell Atlantic was one of the first telephone companies in the
country to institute a "first-call resolution" policy. Under the
new policy, when a customer calls Bell Atlantic with a cramming
complaint, the company immediately removes the charge from the bill,
instead of referring the customer to the company that initiated the charge.

Bell Atlantic routinely screens proposals for billing new services and
reserves the right not to bill for objectionable services.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and
information industry. With 43 million telephone access lines and nine
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.