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Customer can contest charges for 900 calls

THE BALTIMORE EVENING SUN

Consumers who have a problem with a 900 charge on their phone bill should call C&P; Telephone, which acts as billing agent for the long-distance carriers providing the service.

"We are not going to cut off anyone's service for non-payment of 900 charges," says spokesman Al Burman.

"If a customer calls us and says, 'I'm not paying these charges,' we adjust the bill."

C&P;, which purchases accounts receivables from the carriers at a discount to allow for charges that are never paid, refers disputed cases back to whichever long-distance carrier is involved.

The long-distance carrier then decides what to do. It can levy a charge-back against the 900 information provider or it can try to collect from the consumer.

US Sprint's Dave Matson says the company has a lenient forgiveness policy for first-time charges disputed by a customer.

Frank Walter, MCI spokesman, says his company normally defers to the local phone company's decision and decides removal of charges on a case-by-case basis.

Rick Reser of AT&T; warns that his company can cut long-distance service to consumers who don't pay their bills.

It's "very difficult" to get the charge off your bill, Reser says, adding, "If it can be collected, it will be collected."

But AT&T; does permit one-time removal of charges for unauthorized calls made by a teen-ager, though it "better not happen again," Reser says.

If a customer has a problem with a teen-ager, Reser says, the customer can have the local phone company put a block on the line to stop 900 calls.

C&P; imposes a one-time $11 charge for blocking an existing line, but does it free at the time a line is installed.

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