The Coastal Post - September, 1998

SBC-Pac Bell Want 411 Rates To Skyrocket

By Staff

Even though it had sent out notices to customers saying it was seeking to double Californians' charge for 411 directory calls, SBC/Pac Bell already had quietly asked the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) for permission to more than quadruple rates. The move could force Californians to pay the highest rates in the nation for directory assistance, according to a report in the San Diego Union Tribune, which also reported that SBC/Pac Bell told customers it wanted to increase charges for busy line verification from 50 cents to $2, but told the PUC they wanted permission to charge up to $3. The Texas-based telephone conglomerate also told customers it wanted to increase emergency interrupt calls form $1 to $4, but asked the PUC for $5, and they want to lower the number of free 411 calls from five to three.

The PUC says consumers have more than 2,500 letters and e-mail messages protesting the rate increases, making it the 10th largest volume of complaints on any issue to face the PUC. And those protests are aimed at what consumers were led to believe by SBC/Pac Bell notices, not what was actually requested from the PUC.

"They are leaving out the whole truth. They're not telling customers that in the very near future they are going to have the option of charging considerably more," said Charles Carbone, consumer advocate for TURN (The Utility Reform Network).

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