Connecticut AG calls for penalties over AT&T's service

Nick Rees Apr. 7, 2009, 10:30am

Richard Blumenthal (D)

HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - AT&T's inability to meet state quality of service standards in Connecticut should lead to meaningful financial penalties, the state's attorney general said in a formal brief filed with the Department of Public Utility Control.

"Meaningful change requires meaningful penalties for AT&T's failure to comply with long-standing service regulations," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said. "The DPUC has a duty to hold AT&T to the law and enforce regulations intended to protect consumers."

AT&T Corp., which earned almost 30 percent profit on revenues of $1.4 billion in 2007, has failed to ever complete 90 percent of out-of-service repairs within 24 hours or file required compliance reports, the attorney general's office says.

"AT&T has literally and illegally hung up on Connecticut consumers, imperiling customers by leaving them without working telephone service for days on end," Blumenthal said. "This failure is not only bad business, but dangerous to consumers - especially senior citizens - who may need a working phone line for 911 service.

Blumenthal also cited an unacceptably slow average speed for answering service calls, resulting in customers abandoning their calls for help.

Blumenthal's brief calls for civil penalties up to $920,000 as well as requiring AT&T to submit a plan for compliance improvement and to address whether or not staffing levels in Connecticut are sufficient to provide adequate quality of service.

"AT&T's decline in service quality - dipping below some of its competitors - has directly coincided with its shrinking workforce in Connecticut," Blumenthal said. "AT&T has exported jobs - along with service quality - to other states. DPUC must stop the AT&T bleed - a steady drain of good jobs and quality consumer service that violates state regulations, compromises consumers and devastates our economy."

Blumenthal announced in September that he would take legal action to change AT&T's customer service practices, putting pressure on the company through a Department of Public Utility Control proceeding and a petition filed by the Office of the Consumer Counsel.

In October, Blumenthal called on AT&T to keep its remaining 60 customer service jobs in Connecticut as consumer complaints rose following the elimination of nearly 1,000 customer-service related jobs from the state in recent years. AT&T planned to move those jobs to Michigan, a move Blumenthal said would further compromise customer service.

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