Phone Company Angers Residents

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Arizona Corporation Commissioner Bill Mundell, who was appointed to the commission three months ago, is investigating rudeness at the corporate level.


The commissioner has been holding public meetings all over the state, and he was in Payson Wednesday to hear people's complaints and concerns about U.S. West.


Much of the discussion in the council chambers at Town Hall Wednesday night centered around a U.S. West payment drop box that was installed in March at Town Hall.


U.S. West Area Manager Dave Duran said the drop box does not provide the company with an efficient means of collecting bills.


"I'm sure it's not more efficient to use drop boxes," Mundell said. "But it's more convenient for the customer. If there was competition, then you'd have to go with what was more convenient for the customer."


Payson Council member Ray Schum said, however, that the company's drop box has been anything but customer friendly.


"I have as many frustrations with U.S. West as anyone here today," he said. After the box was installed, the company didn't collect the bills and the box was filled to overflowing, he said.


Schum said he tried to notify U.S. West of the problem, but "trying to get a hold of someone to talk to is almost impossible."


After a month, the problem with the drop box was resolved, Schum said, and customers can now drop off their payments at Town Hall.


But the company's billing problems didn't end with the drop box, local U.S. West manager Bruce Ledbetter said. Due to a company error, a shipment of payments was sent to a post office box that had been canceled, he said. The payments were sent to the post office's dead letter file and were lost.


"We're sorry," Ledbetter said. "It has been resolved at this point."


Several U.S. West customers, including Rex Williams, attended the meeting because their checks were lost.


"What I wanted to say was, where the devil did my check go?," he said. "I called U.S. West and talked to someone who was not very considerate. It sounds like everybody's passing the buck."

Carolyn Baltz also sent a check that was lost.


"I mainly want to know if the checks fell into bad hands," she said.


"I'm not sure what the problem is," Mundell said. "I'm not trying to micro-manage U.S. West, but Mr. Ledbetter made it seem like it was the biggest thing since sliced bread to have a drop box."


Mundell said it was the commission's regulatory function to make sure that corporations treat their customers fairly.


Jon Poston, a former public information officer with the Arizona Corporation Commission, who currently represents Arizonans for Competition in Telephone Service, said a free market will take care of many of the problems customers are having with U.S. West.


"More than 50 percent of the complaints about bad service are about U.S. West," said Jon Poston, a former public information officer for the commission. Poston now represents Arizonans for Competition in Telephone Service. "So far, in 1999, 3,331 people have complained about U.S. West


"If complaints are any indicator at all, service is getting worse, not better, and the commission has just got to do something to fix it."


To contact Duran, call 602-630-1181 or e-mail him at da-duran@ uswest.com.

To contact the commission, call 602-542-4251 or 1-800-222-7000. Its Web site address is: www.cc.state.az.us.


To contact Poston, call 480-473-3321.

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