Verizon Overbills 11,000 Customers

By Arshad Mohammed
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Verizon Communications Inc. said yesterday that it overbilled about 11,000 customers in the Washington region and West Virginia by $200 to several thousand dollars each because of a software error.

The nation's second-largest phone company said it discovered the mistake on June 26, fixed the computer program on June 29, and would correct the errors in most customers' next bills.

The incorrect bills were sent to customers in the District, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. Verizon said fixing the problem involved going through the 5.3 million monthly bills it sends to the region to figure out which ones were wrong.

Harry J. Mitchell, a Verizon spokesman, said the company called some affected customers to tell them of the errors and planned to communicate with the rest, probably by letter. It was not clear whether Verizon would tell customers what they owed before next month's bills.

Mitchell said customers unsure of what to pay could call Verizon or pay what they owed the previous month. He also said Verizon would "turn off any late-payment charge flags" so affected customers are not dunned if they do not pay what their bills say is due.

Jack Mitton, an accountant who lives in the District, said he recently signed up for a Verizon plan promising unlimited local and long-distance calling for $39.95 a month, but his next bill was for $2,255.26.

Mitton said a Verizon agent told him on Monday that he owed about $59 (counting fees, taxes and a prorated amount from a previous service plan) and promised to fix the problem. When he called yesterday, the bill had not been corrected and a second agent estimated that he owed $55.

"After that, then the guy wanted to sell me on DSL," Mitton said. "I said I wasn't interested in DSL until I after I had gotten everything straightened out on the bill."

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