AT&T bills are going up again today, and consumers are crying foul.
For Immediate Release From The Utility Reform Network
AT&T is tacking an additional $1.01 onto Caller ID, Call Waiting, Call Forwarding and other custom features that it already raised prices for just months ago. AT&T also recently raised prices for Directory Assistance, late payments, local toll calls and many business services.
Verizon has also hit customers with higher rates since last year’s decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) permitting phone companies to raise prices at will, regardless of costs. "It didn’t take long for the phone giants to take advantage of the CPUC’s laxity," said TURN’s executive director Bob Finkelstien. "Now the question is how long will it take for the CPUC to stop these reconfigured monopolies from taking advantage of customers, just as they have in the past?
In a letter to CPUC President Michael Peevey, TURN, UCAN and other consumer representatives point out that the deregulation of phone service has not resulted in more competitive choices for customers but rather in two giants smashing the competition and grabbing a bigger share of Californians’ paychecks for their top brass in San Antonio and New York.
When it abandoned oversight of the telecommunications industry, the CPUC vowed to be vigilant to "ensure that the market continues to serve consumers well." Michael Shames, executive director of UCAN, said just the opposite has happened. "This Commission has thrown the state’s consumers to rapacious wolves and it’s already proving to be a blood bath. The telecom companies have already set their sights on those consumers who have the least amount of choice or ability to assert their rights and their greed appears to have no bounds."
The Consumer Federation of California, Asian Law Caucus, Disability Rights Advocates, Consumer Action and Latino Issue Forum all joined UCAN and TURN in demanding that the CPUC act immediately to protect consumers. "Many of the price increases, such as late payment fees, return check charges, directory assistance increases and toll increases will hit vulnerable consumer with the fewest options," they said. Read the full text of the letter here.