Minnesota AG Settles With AT&T

The state of Minnesota and AT&T have reached an agreement that resolves the consumer protection lawsuit filed against the long distance carrier.

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The agreement settles the state's claim that AT&T erroneously billed some 25,939 Minnesota citizens in 2004 for services never ordered or provided. Under the terms of the settlement, AT&T has refunded or credited Minnesotans who were wrongly billed and has agreed to provide

300-minute long distance calling cards to Minnesotans adversely affected by its erroneous billing and to make a $200,000 payment to the State.

The State's final settlement with AT&T specifically includes the following:

. AT&T agreed to credit and refund all Minnesotans incorrectly assessed calling plan charges and to stop marketing to callers who had been billed in error. Over 25,000 Minnesotans have received credits to date for a total of $308,000.

. In addition, the 25,000-plus Minnesotans who received credits are also eligible for a 300-minute calling card. Eligible citizens will receive a letter in the mail detailing how to submit an application for a calling card. The consumer calling card restitution has a retail value of up to $780,000.

. AT&T will make a $200,000 payment to the State of Minnesota. The state's lawsuit was the result of an investigation that revealed that over 25,000 Minnesotans were erroneously billed on their local phone bill for long distance calling plan charges by AT&T beginning in January 2004.

When the company started assessing a $3.95 monthly charge to its long distance "Basic Rate Plan" customers, AT&T billed not only customers on its "Basic Rate Plan" for the $3.95 and other associated fees, but also an additional 25,939 Minnesotans who did not order services from AT&T or who had other AT&T calling plans.

In addition, when those citizens called AT&T to inquire about the charges, rather than helping consumers, AT&T placed Minnesotans on hold for extensive periods of time, transferred them to customer service representatives who tried to "hard sell" AT&T services, and, in some cases, the company told consumers they would had to sign up for an AT&T calling plan to get their money back or charges credited.

A letter is being sent to those Minnesotans who were incorrectly billed by AT&T, directing those citizens how to receive their calling card. Eligible consumers will simply have to check a box on a claim form, fill in the claim number found on the letter, sign and mail the form back to the Minnesota Attorney General's Office by August 15,

2005, or send an email to the Office at snipped-for-privacy@state.mn.us. The email must include the customer's name, address, the reason for requesting the calling card, and the claim number on the letter.

Copyright 2003-2005 ConsumerAffairs.Com Inc.

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Lisa Minter
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