Over the years, Ma Bell has developed several hang-ups due to criticism by telephone users. So the grandma of the communication industry is not taking the latest charges lying down. The rap is a bum one. It concerns the exorbitant phone surcharges - as much as 300 per cent - U.S. travelers are being hit with when they call home from hotels overseas. You see, it's the hotel and not the phone company that slaps the extra charges on the visitor's bills, though Ma Bell gets much of the static from irate travelers.
So Bell is making a concerted effort to go after all those "wrong numbers" who are ripping off the consumer says Ed Carr, director of overseas administration for the Long Lines Dept. of AT&T. Carr spends much of his time chasing around the world trying to sell countries and hotel groups on Teleplan, a system of reasonable surcharges on calls to the United States.
"It's outrageous to have to pay $60 for an 8 - minute call from the Hotel Kempinski in West Berlin to Philadelphia when it should only be $22," Carr said.
Other representative cases of telephone price - gouging by foreign hotels include $472 for a series of calls from the Hotel Atlanta in Rotterdam to Detroit that should have cost $152; a $28 tab for a five - minute call from the Hotel Meurice in Paris to New York that really costs less than $14, and a $686 bill from a hotel in Beirut for a call to Washington that should have cost $250.
So far, Ireland, Israel and Portugal have agreed to Teleplan.
In accordance with the Portuguese agreement, most hotels there now are limiting long distance surcharges to 20 per cent of the cost of the call with a maximum charge of $2. Prior to Teleplan, Carr said, the hotel surcharges ranged up to 60 per cent with no maximum, so a 10 - minute, station - to - station call to the United States that costs $17 came to $27.20 with the 60 per cent surcharge. Now the same call costs $19 ($17 plus the $2 surcharge.)
Carr also has made a Teleplan breakthrough with Trust Houses Forte, one of the world's most prestigious hotel groups with 800 properties around the globe. Now he's going after U.S. - based hotel groups with overseas properties. (Americans staying at the Cavalieri Hilton in Rome have complained of a 300 - per - cent surcharge on calls to the States.)
Carr hopes to have more luck with the U.S. hotel groups that he had with Germany's Kempinski Group, which owns the Atlantic in Hamburg, the Four Seasons in Munich and the Kempinski in West Berlin. After extensive negotiations, Carr said, he was told that the "profits were so fantastic that the hotels couldn't drop the surcharge." Carr figures that the excess profits on calls to the United States amount to about $250,000 a year.
And why should the hotels give up the "fantastic profits" and adopt Teleplan? Because if they do, AT&T, one of the world's largest advertisers, will push tourism to those countries in its ads. "The amount of business and the goodwill gained will more than offset the amount of money lost by the hotels' overcharging guests on their phone bills," Carr said.
He said the hotels also would be able to display the Teleplan emblem - a line box of telephone with the word Teleplan under it - which will show prospective guests, "They'll be getting their dollars worth with their dialing.