GTE adopts toughest anti-cramming policy in the industry; process will be fully implemented by April

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WASHINGTON, D.C. GTE Network Services today announced it was adopting the toughest anti-cramming policy in the industry to prevent unauthorized charges from being passed onto customers' telephone bills. GTE is the first company to declare its intention to implement all the best practices endorsed by the industrys anti-cramming task force.

"We're building upon many industry-leading steps GTE has already taken to send the strongest signal possible that GTE wont tolerate companies that submit false or deceptive charges to us," said Larry Sparrow, president-GTE Wholesale Markets.

National Consumers League President Linda Golodner said, "We applaud GTE for taking a strong stand against cramming. These new policies will make it harder for fraudulent companies to place unauthorized chargeson GTE phone bills and easier for consumers to spot possible billing problems."

Most GTE customers want the convenience of one bill for all their telecommunication services, according to Sparrow. GTE acts as the middleman between customers and other telecommunication companies. GTE currently provides billing and collection support for more than 60 third-party companies for services ranging from long-distance and wireless to Internet access.

GTE Policy Changes

GTE has adopted and is in the process of implementing new policies that:

  • Enable customers to limit the companies that can bill products to their local telephone bill by April 1, 1999;
  • Eliminate non-telecommunication items, such as "club fees" or "membership fees" for psychic or sports chat lines as of Jan. 1, 1999;
  • Require independent third party verification for any new service other than long-distance service provider changes on Jan. 1, 1999.

In addition, GTE has redesigned its local telephone service bills. Changes will be phased in over six months, beginning in October with new bill phrases.

Many of the industrys best practices originated with GTE's customer satisfaction program. GTE began working with its billing and collection clients in Feb. 1997. GTE attacked the issue by requiring clear, descriptive terms on its bills and setting a customer complaint level ceiling. GTE announced this past May that it wouldnt renew third-party billing contracts with three companies for failing to meet minimum customer satisfaction levels and 11 more are on probation.

With 1997 revenues of more than $23 billion, GTE is one of the world's largest telecommunications companies and a leading provider of integrated telecommunications services. In the United States, GTE provides local service in 28 states.

Additional information about GTE can be found at www.gte.com

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XXT(98)

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