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Phone Fees Ring Untrue, Group Says

March 31, 2004|From Associated Press

Phone companies should be banned from imposing an array of surcharges that are labeled so as to suggest the government gets the fees or requires their collection, state watchdog agencies complained to federal regulators Tuesday.

The "regulatory assessment fees" and other similarly named surcharges, which reap billions of dollars annually, are legally permitted as a way for companies to recoup costs for complying with federal mandates.

In a petition filed Tuesday with the Federal Communications Commission, the National Assn. of State Utility Consumer Advocates, which represents 43 state agencies, contends that such expenses reflect a regular cost of doing business, just like network maintenance.

As such, the charges to cover those costs should already be reflected in the per-minute calling rate or overall monthly fee, the group said.

The FCC did not offer an immediate reaction. Several phone firms called the petition potentially harmful to consumers.

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