Washington UTC may penalize Qwest for consumer protection violations

via the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission:

Qwest faces stiff fines for repeatedly disobeying state rules

State regulatory staff today recommended $69,000 in penalties against Qwest, saying the phone company repeatedly violated numerous consumer protection regulations in 2009.

Staff members of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) recommended the fine, alleging that Qwest failed to comply with UTC rules designed to protect telephone customers in Washington. A commission administrative law judge will review the matter and decide whether to impose penalties.

The UTC staff's review of the company's complaint data found that on numerous occasions the telephone company incorrectly billed customers, disconnected customers' phone service without proper notice, and refused phone service to qualified customers. Commission staff also alleged Qwest charged customers for services not provided, did not allow customers the option of making payment arrangements and failed to repair phone-service interruptions in a timely manner.

From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2008, UTC staff conducted an initial investigation by reviewing 212 Qwest customer complaints that resulted in 149 violations of laws and rules enforced by the commission. After providing remedies and technical assistance to the company to correct its noncompliance, the commission staff did a follow-up review of 102 consumer complaints from March 1 through June 30, 2009, and found the phone company continued to violate seven of the 11 laws and rules identified the year before.

The administrative law judge will hold a prehearing conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday, May 25 in the second-floor hearing room of the UTC s headquarters, 1300 S. Evergreen Park Drive S.W., Olympia.

Denver-based Qwest is the largest local telephone company in Washington. In April, the company announced plans to merge with Louisiana-based CenturyLink. Qwest currently provides 1.3 million residential and business phone lines to many cities in the state including: Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, Olympia, Bellingham, Aberdeen, Longview, Bremerton, Spokane, Moses Lake, Yakima, Pasco and Walla Walla.

The UTC is the state agency in charge of regulating the rates and services of telephone companies operating in the state of Washington.

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