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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ohio's Consumer Counsel: New AT and T Fee Smells Fishy

COLUMBUS (TDB) -- The state's consumer watchdog over utility companies says telephone giant AT&T could gouging its Ohio customers with a new fee. The phone company has begun charging $5 for copying old long-distance bills, which many Americans are gathering this winter for a one-time federal tax break.

Consumer Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said the fee should be suspended until AT&T proves the price is "fair and reasonable." She noted that it started January 22, when Ohioans began looking for phone records for the tax refund.

"No telephone company should be allowed to impose charges for copies of past bills without justifying the amount," Migden-Ostrander said, pointing out that copying fees might exceed the amount the IRS is offering for long-distance excise tax refunds.

She has issued a press release that outlines her concerns about a potential unfair practice. The IRS says about 160 million Americans are eligible for long-distance excise tax refunds this year. "Taxpayers have a choice: A standard refund amount between $30 and $60, based on the total number of exemptions claimed on their 2006 tax return, to eliminate the need to locate old phone bills: or they can locate those bills and use the actual amount," the IRS says.

There is quite a bit of information about the refund, and how to get it, HERE. The phone company's 2007 press releases are online. But there doesn't appear to be anything about the new $5 copying fee.

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