AT&T Billing Practices Alarm Many Consumers

AT&T Billing Practices Alarm Many Consumers

Bell Atlantic Responds to Thousands of Customers Seeking Help

August 24, 1999

Media contact: Shannon Fioravanti, 215-963-6639

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 billing policies.

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.

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