A software programming error caused 113,000 Maryland and Washington customers of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. to be billed several times for some long-distance calls last month. Affected accounts will receive a credit on next month's bills.
The latest snafu represents the second time in four months that area phone customers have been overcharged because of a problem with C&P's billing software.
In October, C&P said it had discovered in August that it had been erroneously charging some Anne Arundel customers for a county tax that had long been discontinued. C&P said the billing mistake stemmed from a software programming error.
That's the same culprit being blamed by C&P for its latest billing problem. According to C&P, a software programming error caused 93,000 Maryland customers and 20,000 Washington customers to be billed several times for some long-distance calls placed through American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
In most cases, the error affected AT&T calls of a one-minute duration.
The erroneous tallies showed up on bills that were sent out from Nov. 1 through Nov. 8 and prompted a number of customers to complain. As a result of those complaints, C&P discovered its latest software problem.
Al Burman, a C&P spokesman, said the company doesn't know exactly how much customers were overcharged. Likewise, Mr. Burman said C&P doesn't know how many minutes were overcharged.
But even if every affected customer was only overcharged by one minute, for a total of 113,000 minutes of overcharges, the figure is a hefty one: more than 1,880 hours, or 78 days' worth, of overcharges. Actual overcharges are probably much higher because many customers, according to C&P, were billed multiple times for the same one-minute call.
C&P is paid by AT&T and the other long-distance companies to bill for long-distance calls.