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AT&T Ripped Off Hamilton County (Tenn.) 911 By “Intentionally Undercollecting” Fees, New Suit Alleges

Phillip Dampier November 17, 2011 AT&T, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Video No Comments
The Hamilton County’s Emergency Communications District is suing AT&T of Tennessee for what it says was an intentional decision to under-report and under-charge customers the monthly $1-3 911 fee levied on residential and commercial phone lines.  Hamilton County, which includes the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., ironically discovered the “intentional under-collection” of the mandatory 911 fees when it received a proposal from the phone company to provide telephone service to the county at a lower rate than competitors could offer, in part because AT&T offered to discount or eliminate the 911 surcharges.The county 911 agency, through its lawsuit, suggests most of the under-reporting is taking place with business customers who are using AT&T’s multiplexed Centrex phone service.  AT&T provides up to 23 voice phone lines over a single circuit, but only charges 911 fees on a single line, the lawsuit alleges.

“They were able to do what they call bundling,” ECD Executive Director John Stuermer told WRCB-TV. “Technology allows multiple phone lines over a single pair of wires, [but] we’re not getting the funding for the lines as we should have.”

Hamilton County ECD wants a U.S. District Court to fine AT&T $10,000 for each falsified financial report it has filed since 2001. Collectively, that could amount to a fine up to $1.33 million.

The lawsuit demands that AT&T open access to its billing files for a county investigation.

AT&T won’t comment on the lawsuit, but it isn’t the first time the phone company has faced scrutiny for similar under-collection of 911 fees. In 2006, the 911 district for Madison County, Ala., sued AT&T’s predecessor BellSouth for the same thing. The company settled that lawsuit privately in 2009.

[flv width=”480″ height=”380″]http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WRCB Chattanooga Hamilton County sues ATT for 911 fees 11-15-11.mp4[/flv]

WRCB in Chattanooga reports Hamilton County 911 may not be getting the funding it needs because AT&T isn’t passing along what it owes in 911 surcharges.  (3 minutes)

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