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AT&T May Face Fine for ‘Slamming’

February 19, 1998

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ AT&T may face penalties for switching New York customers’ phone service without their knowledge, state regulators said Wednesday.

The practice, commonly referred to as ``slamming,″ was made illegal in New York by a law that went into effect Jan. 20. New York’s anti-slamming statute is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

State Public Service Commission Chairman John O’Mara said complaints against AT&T had declined only slightly after the phone giant filed a plan to correct the problem last June.

Complaints have started to rise again in the last four months, he said. Since June 1997, the PSC has received 371 slamming complaints against AT&T.

O’Mara warned that if additional, substantiated slamming complaints arise, a penalty proceeding could be initiated against AT&T. Fines for slamming can be as high as $1,000 per violation, under the new state law.

AT&T Vice President Michael Morrissey said the company would work with state officials.

``Although the number of complaints is a small percentage of the millions of transactions AT&T does every month, we don’t condone unauthorized switching of customers,″ Morrissey said.

New York officials have called on the Federal Communications Commission to adopt rules similar to state’s law.

The FCC has also been swamped by slamming complaints, and it is expected to adopt tougher standards sometime this fall. Among the changes the FCC is considering is one to exempt slamming victims from long-distance phone charges made during the period of the unauthorized switch.

Roughly 50 million people deliberately switch long-distance companies each year. But 16,000 people last year complained to the FCC that they were switched without their consent. It’s the No. 1 source of complaints at the federal agency.

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