AT&T is facing a $745,000 fine from Connecticut officials after they concluded the telecommunication giant failed to keep residents' landlines up and running.
AT&T, according to the state's Department of Public Utility Control, fell far short of Connecticut's criteria that the company fix at least 90% of its customers' out-of-service problems reported within a 24-hour period. The DPUC does not regulate cell phones in Connecticut.
The customer service problems weren't confined to a small period of time, either, according to Attorney General George Jepsen: AT&T failed to comply with the regulation in every year since the standards were adopted in 2001. The state issued its notice of violation in May 2010. Since then, officials have held hearings to determine the final fine.The company also failed to file an adequate corrective plan, required under the same state service regulation. And, a spokesperson for Jepsen's office told Consumer Ally, the company has still not filed an adequate plan with the state. That could lead to a finding that AT&T continues to be in violation of the state's regulations.
In response, AT&T spokesperson Chuck Coursey said, in a statement: "We strongly disagree with the DPUC's decision and will appeal."
AT&T can petition the regulators for a change to the rules.
The company says the regulations are outdated, that AT&T serves less than half of Connecticut's landline customers, and that it deserves no penalties after pouring "nearly $825 million into enhancing its wireless and wired networks" in the state.
Jepsen cast the problem as being broader than that of business and customer service, however.
"The out-of-service repair standard is very important, as it directly relates to public safety," Jepsen said. "Many Connecticut citizens rely upon working telephone service as their lifeline to emergency services and their only connection to the outside world."
Utility officials initially proposed a $1.2 million penalty -- about $10,000 per month, for every month AT&T was deemed in violation. Regulators reduced that amount to $745,000 after they determined that the company had paid some customers back for lost service in the form of refunds and offsets to their rates.
For now, Jepsen said in his statement, Connecticut is monitoring AT&T's next moves.
"The $745,000 fine sends a clear message to AT&T that it needs to improve its response to out-of-service customers." Jepsen said. "The company's responses in the future will be closely monitored."
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