YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


PacBell Criticized for 'Misleading' Offer


A San Diego-based consumer group has filed a complaint with state regulators, charging that Pacific Bell sent customers "a misleading and deceptive" promotion for one of the phone company's calling plans.

The issue centers on a letter PacBell sent to customers in May that includes the statement: "Based on your calling history from December 1998 through February 1999, you would have saved with our Saver 60 plan."

PacBell's Saver 60 plan costs $3.60 a month and includes 60 minutes of local toll calls--those calls that are outside the free zone but not far enough to be long-distance. Additional minutes cost 6 cents each.

In a complaint filed with the California Public Utilities Commission, the Utility Consumers' Action Network claims that the statement is not always true, citing the case of James McFarlane, a PacBell customer who would not have saved money on the Saver 60 plan, but instead would have paid about 5% more for his toll calls in the December-February period.

UCAN has asked regulators to force PacBell to halt the promotion, reimburse customers who were misled by the mailing, and to send corrected letters using actual usage figures and comparisons. The group wants PacBell to pay all applicable fines and penalties for the company's actions.

The PacBell letter includes a footnote saying that the savings may vary depending on calling patterns, but UCAN said PacBell's mailing is deceptive because the promotion's claims are actually based on customer averages.

"We haven't seen the complaint, so we can't comment on it," said PacBell spokesman Steve Getzug. "But we think Saver 60 is a terrific product that can provide savings for many of our customers."

Los Angeles Times Articles