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PageNet Pulls Plug on Service to EconoPage

March 14, 1998|P.J. HUFFSTUTTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — The national company that supplies air time to EconoPage of Southern California said Friday that it is pulling the plug on the Orange County company, giving nearly 33,000 customers two months to switch their service.

PageNet Inc., the national paging giant and air time supplier, said it started contacting EconoPage customers Friday and letting them know that the Santa Ana firm has failed to pay for its air time and is in default.

"They didn't pay us for the majority of January and all of February's bills," said Tom Phelan, vice president and general manager of PageNet of Orange County.

Phelan declined to provide details.

Earlier this month, EconoPage closed its doors and fired its staff. At the time, company founder Larry Nichols insisted that he had paid all his bills to PageNet. Nichols blamed his firm's financial woes on PageNet, which allegedly was going to terminate EconoPage's contract on May 31.

Nichols said EconoPage staff have repeatedly faxed letters to PageNet to point out discrepancies in air time bills. But PageNet officials never received these letters, Phelan said.

Neither Nichols nor his attorney could be reached for comment Friday.

PageNet said it plans to keep the customers' pagers working throughout the next two months.

"I know that many of the customers have prepaid contracts with the company, so we're offering a credit of up to six months for these existing contracts," Phelan said. "But after that, if they want to prevent interrupting their service, they'll have to pay us for it."

EconoPage has suffered from marketing and customer troubles since a San Jose firm with a similar name unexpectedly shut down last year, cutting off 200,000 Bay Area customers.

After EconoPage Inc. of San Jose closed, the Santa Ana company became the subject of rumors that it was headed for a similar fate. At one point, the Orange County company obtained a court order barring a competitor from spreading the rumors.

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