NEW ENGLAND - Ouch. Snet Catches Up on Charges Glitch; 100,000 Affected : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Title: Snet Catches Up On Charges Glitch Kept Some Calls Off Bills Until Now

Source: The Hartford Courant Publication date: 2000-05-06

Ouch. An estimated 100,000 customers of Southern New England Telecommunications should expect the unexpected in their next monthly bills -- charges for some international, calling card or wireless calls dating back to January.

SNET said it is back-billing customers, primarily in the 860 area code, for an estimated 1.4 million calls made between Jan. 28 and April 19 -- but never billed because of a computer error. The calls were made using SNET's long-distance, calling card or wireless service.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said his office is looking into the matter. "There may be reasons they can't back-bill customers," Blumenthal said. "We're investigating."

Beverly E. Levy, a SNET spokeswoman, said that when SNET changed a switch carrying some of its long-distance calls, the computer system that stores the data for billing the calls was not updated.

As a result, the records created when the calls were placed never reached the billing system. That changed on April 19, when the error and the missing records were discovered, Levy said.

"Now that we have found the errors, those calls will be billed on the next billing cycle" which runs between April 27 and May 25, Levy said.

"Customers are obligated for these calls. It's not costing our customers anything. They will be billed at the same rate they would have" if they had been billed when the calls were made, she said.

Jennifer Bombard, 27, of Suffield, has already been notified by SNET that she will receive additional charges. She is not pleased, but said she has not decided whether to contest the charges.

"This is a long time for them to wait to give notice. It was a problem with their systems and it's unreasonable for them to expect people to pay for their mistakes," Bombard said.

Levy would not disclose how much money is involved. The number of affected calls averaged 14 per customer, she said. But if you haven't heard from SNET by now, your damages may be limited.

Levy said "as a courtesy" SNET had customer service representatives call each customer whose back charges totaled $25 or more.

"If it causes a financial problem for the customer, we would certainly be willing to work with them," Levy said.

Bombard, a sixth-grade teacher home on maternity leave awaiting the birth of her first child, said she received the call last Friday. But the SNET representative did not tell her about the $25 threshold or how much money she owes. SNET, she said, should absorb the loss.

"If I had let a student go all semester without doing his homework and flunked him without telling the student or his parents, that would be wrong," she said. "So is SNET."

Bombard, who uses SNET "for everything" from local to long- distance to Internet access service, said switching to another phone company because of the problem is "something I would definitely consider."

Her mother, Nancy Carew of Suffield, a SNET customer on and off for 30 years, is also considering changing carriers.

"We never had too much of a problem" with SNET before now, she said. SNET left a message on Carew's answering machine alerting her to the billing error.

Publication date: 2000-05-06 ) 2000, YellowBrix, Inc.


-- (, May 08, 2000

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