Voice: Beware of telephone blocks

February 18, 2002

I recently asked Pacific Bell to put blocks on our telephones so our clients could not make long-distance calls on these phone lines. I was very specific. I stated, "I do not want any long-distance calls billed from these phones."

They were very specific and stated there would be no problem, your clients will not be able to make long-distance calls and they can only call locally within a 15-mile radius.

Sounds good, right? Wrong! What they did not tell me was that the clients could call operator assistance and have the operators call long distance for them and bill it to the blocked number.

Also, the clients could accept collect calls and they would also be billed to the blocked number. As you can imagine, I was very surprised to find a significant number of long-distance calls on the telephone bill.


When discussing these charges with Pacific Bell, they said I had to pay the charges because I only asked that they block long-distance calls not third-party billing. When I asked why they did not give me information about third-party billing when I first requested long distance be completely blocked, they said it was because I had not specifically asked about third-party billing.

Three hours of being passed back and forth between Pacific Bell and AT&T convinced me that neither entity cares much about customer service or justice or honorable business practices. They are concerned about the bottom line — pay the bill. We won't write it off because you should have asked for specific blocking and, by the way, we can't guarantee that, even with a block, calls might be made or charges accepted and you will be required to pay them.

The only solution offered was to change the service to a pay phone. A pay phone will not accept collect calls and you must put money in it to make any outgoing calls. Also, the monthly bill for a pay phone is quite a bit more than the monthly bill for a residential phone — does this feel like gouging to you? It does to me.

Thank you, Pacific Bell, for your "excellent" customer service and your well-padded bill.



Imperial Valley Press Online Articles