Computer glitch leads to high bills for U.S. West customers : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


Published Friday, December 3, 1999

Computer glitch leads to high bills for U S West customers

Steve Alexander / Star Tribune

A St. Paul man whose long-distance telephone bill mysteriously quadrupled has turned out to be one of thousands of U S West customers whose high-speed Internet access service triggered a computer billing glitch.

David Strom, an AT&T residential long-distance telephone customer in St. Paul, said the long-distance bill for his apartment telephone increased 500percent after his calling rate was changed by AT&T from 9 cents a minute to 42 cents a minute.

Strom said he did not know why his calling rate had been dramatically increased, but discovered that AT&T believed his apartment was a business and had raised his rates accordingly. Federal law allows both local and long-distance telephone companies to charge businesses substantially more for telephone service than they charge consumers.

U S West confirmed Thursday that a computer systems error converted many of its telephone customers from residential to business services, thus triggering sharp increases in their long-distance telephone bills. The glitch affected only U S West customers who subscribe to the company's high-speed digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet access service.

U S West had no estimate of how many customers were affected, but AT&T spokeswoman Lee Ann Kuster in Phoenix said that as many as 8,000 AT&T long-distance customers in 13 states served by U S West may have been over-billed as a result of the computer error.

Although U S West learned about the problem months ago from customer complaints and AT&T representatives, it did not disclose the problem until a reporter asked about it this week.

Barry Hawkins, a U S West spokesman in Denver, said the error has been fixed. But if a customer encounters the problem, he or she should either call the long-distance company at the number listed on the phone bill or call U S West residential customer billing at 1-800-244-1111, Hawkins said.

Kuster said that AT&T was able to correct the account problem when customers called to complain, but that the problem re-occurred each time AT&T received new customer information from U S West.

While AT&T knew about the problem, a spokeswoman for MCI Worldcom said no complaints had been received. Sprint representatives did not return a phone call.

For Strom, the big problem was getting himself reclassified as a residential customer because AT&T was convinced that his apartment was a business.

"You have to jump through a lot of hoops to get back to a residential service plan, but it's important because you pay four times more for business service," Strom said.

-- Homer Beanfang (, December 03, 1999


Yep, US West is toast.

US West computers go down with computer glitch

-- spider (, December 03, 1999.

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