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503-378-6002 or Kristina.Edmunson@doj.state.or.us
About Ellen F. Rosenblum
Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that MCI WORLDCOM Communications, Inc. (MCI) will change certain billing practices and pay $1.32 million to Oregon and 23 other states as part of a multi-state settlement. Oregon's share of $55,000 will be used to fund future consumer protection and education activities. An Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, filed today in Marion County Circuit Court, addresses the company's alleged misleading billing practices concerning MCI's self-described charge called a "National Access Fee."
"It's bad enough that Oregonians currently spend hours trying to sort out the possible unauthorized charges on their telephone bills from 'slamming' and 'cramming' without having to question every line item for its authenticity," Myers said. "Misleading information concerning a billing understates the real costs of the long distance services and does not allow consumers to compare accurately the rates of other long distance carriers."
Joint investigations by several states' Attorneys General found that beginning in January 1998, MCI billed its customers for a "National Access Fee," which in many states was placed in the "Taxes and Surcharge" portion of the bill. When questioned about the charge, MCI told its customers that the fee was a tax or a charge that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was requiring MCI to collect. Investigations revealed that neither was true. The fee is not a tax or other government mandated charge and the FCC did not require MCI to collect this charge from consumers.
Under the settlement, MCI admits no violation of law and agrees not to use the term "National Access Fee" or other terms that could cause the consumer to believe that the charge is a tax or other government mandated charge. MCI also agrees not to represent that a fee is authorized or required by FCC or any other governmental agency or that MCI is required by those agencies to collect it when it is not.
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