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AT&T Sues Reseller, Alleging Switch

March 11, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ AT&T Corp. on Wednesday said it sued a reseller of its long-distance service for ``slamming,″ claiming the company switched phone customers’ long-distance service without their permission.

AT&T, the nation’s largest long-distance company, said that Business Discount Plan Inc.’s salespeople falsely told customers they were affiliated with AT&T and sometimes charged up to triple AT&T’s phone rates.

AT&T asked a federal court in Chicago to force BDP to inform customers it is not affiliated with AT&T and enable customers to return to their previous carrier. AT&T sought unspecified damages.

An attorney for Business Discount Plan, based in Long Beach, Calif., denied the company’s salespeople said they were affiliated with AT&T. Greg Eriksen, the attorney, acknowledged BDP received slamming complaints but tied it to what he termed AT&T’s delayed processing of telephone service orders.

``We think AT&T is attempting to use BDP as a publicity scapegoat to defer attention from its own problems relative to slamming complaints,″ Eriksen said.

AT&T last week announced a crackdown on outside sellers of its phone service, saying it would curtail its use of independent sales agents, restrict resellers and start a phone hotline to answer customer complaints.

AT&T also said it wanted to charge companies that resell its services for the cost of each unauthorized customer switch.

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