No long-distance bill? Be patient Erroneous reprieve will be corrected on February bill


January 20, 1998|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

Because of a Bell Atlantic error, 350,000 AT&T customers in Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and West Virginia were not billed for December and January long-distance telephone calls.

The reprieve will be temporary. The unbilled calls will be charged on customers' February bills.

"It is quite big," AT&T Corp. spokesman Ritch Blasi said of the mistake. "You're concerned when there's one customer not billed properly. When you get this many, that's just too much."

Bell Atlantic Corp., which handles much of AT&T's billing in the region, blamed the situation on a data processing error.

"This is very rare for us," said Bell Atlantic spokesman Harry Mitchell. "We strive for the highest level of customer service. We fell short in this particular case. We want to apologize to customers for any inconvenience this has caused."

Mitchell said the company has begun an investigation into the cause of the data processing snafu, and that it will issue notification letters to the affected customers. AT&T's Blasi said the value of the unbilled calls ran into the millions of dollars, though neither company would divulge a specific figure. Blasi said AT&T does not foresee any special losses from the billing error.

Blasi said AT&T became aware of the problem late Wednesday afternoon, when customers called to ask why their phone bills were missing long-distance charges. AT&T then tracked the error to Bell Atlantic.

According to Blasi, most AT&T customers nationwide are billed through regional phone companies like Bell Atlantic.

However, he said, AT&T wants to reduce this reliance: "We're trying right now to transition everyone to AT&T direct billing."

Pub Date: 1/20/98

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