Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Customers can turn down
AT&T’s 800 number service

Question: My latest bill from AT&T had this note: "There was no activity on your AT&T Easy Reach (SM) 800 Service this month. Your personal 800 number is the easiest, most convenient way to keep in touch with the people who matter most to you." Since I never asked for an 800 number, I called the local AT&T office and was referred to a mainland office. The first person I reached told me I had had this service since November, as if that was an explanation. When I asked how it was initiated, he said something about if I don't like it, he would eliminate it. I said please do, and without a word, he hung up. I wasn't sure that was all I needed to do, so I called back. The second person repeated that I'd had this service since November (so what?!) and that a notation had been made for removal of service. She said that I wasn't being charged for the service because no one had used it. I asked how this service was put on my account without my authorization. She said they do this "from time to time" for some of their "best customers." Isn't there some kind of regulation regarding this? Also, if you don't specifically tell them NOT to do this kind of thing, do they just go ahead and do it anyway?

Answer: Without knowing the specifics of your case, local AT&T spokesman George Irion said you should have received notification about the service shortly after it was made available to you.

He said you may not remember receiving, or somehow did not receive, a packet of information from AT&T explaining that the personal 800 service was available to you. That packet would have contained a card with the 800 number and personal identification number (PIN) to pass on to someone, such as a child away at college, he said.

Within the network, AT&T can assign a number and "get the service ready to go. They don't activate it, but the service is ready to go and available for certain customers," Irion said.

While the personal 800 number may appear on some customers' accounts, "it doesn't just appear as a service," he said. In other words, it could not be activated without the PIN, there are no monthly charges (for AT&T customers), and "it is free until it is used."

You apparently were targeted to receive the service because AT&T is able to "identify certain calling patterns" of its customers, Irion said. For customers who may have a lot of charges involving expensive operator-handled or collect calls, the personal 800 service is offered as a less costly alternative, he said.

All calls under the personal 800 number are 25 cents a minute. (For non-AT&T customers, there is a $2.50 monthly fee for the same service.)

Again, not knowing exactly what your situation was, he speculated that since you did not activate the service, a note was placed in your latest billing because it was about 90 days since it was offered.

"If you do not use the 800 number or give it out and have somebody utilize it in the first 90 days, the service in effect is discontinued, and the offer is not available," he said.

The Federal Communications Commission's Common Carrier Bureau oversees long-distance and local telephone companies. In general, if you have a telephone-related complaint that you can't resolve with your carrier, you can file a written complaint with the FCC, 445 12th St. SW, Washington, DC 20554, or do it online at www.fcc. gov/cib/complaints.html. But the FCC says it does not regulate all telephone issues, so complaints about your local telephone company or intrastate issues should be directed to the state Public Utilities Commission (586-2028).


To Gary Correa. On Jan. 29, I had the unfortunate experience of being in a car accident. The other vehicle fled the scene without exchanging any information with me. My lucky angel that afternoon witnessed the accident and gave me the fleeing car's license plate. Thank you again. -- M.K.

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