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  • S T A T E O F M I C H I G A N

    BEFORE THE MICHIGAN PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

    * * * * *

    In the matter of the complaint of ) MARILYNN PATTISON against AT&T ) Case No. U-13164 COMMUNICATIONS OF MICHIGAN, INC. ) ) At the April 16, 2002 meeting of the Michigan Public Service Commission in Lansing,

    Michigan.

    PRESENT: Hon. Laura Chappelle, Chairman

    Hon. David A. Svanda, Commissioner Hon. Robert B. Nelson, Commissioner

    OPINION AND ORDER

    I.

    HISTORY OF PROCEEDINGS

    On October 25, 2001, Marilynn Pattison filed a complaint against AT&T Communications of

    Michigan, Inc., (AT&T) alleging violations of the Michigan Telecommunications Act (MTA),

    MCL 484.2101 et seq. Specifically, the complaint asserted that AT&T violated Sections 505(1)

    and 502(a) of the MTA by slamming1 her long distance service and by making one or more

    unspecified misrepresentations, respectively. AT&T filed its answer and affirmative defenses on

    December 11, 2001.

    Pursuant to due notice (and following an agreed-upon adjournment), an evidentiary hearing

    was conducted on January 14, 2002 before Administrative Law Judge Barbara A. Stump (ALJ).

    1“Slamming” refers to switching one or more of an end-use customer’s telecommunications services from one provider to another without the customer’s permission.

  • Page 2 U-13164

    Mrs. Pattison, AT&T, and the Commission Staff (Staff) participated in the proceedings. On that

    date, and after the submission of the Complainant’s proofs, the ALJ also heard oral argument on

    AT&T’s motion to dismiss Count II of the complaint, which concerned the alleged violation of

    Section 502(a). Based on Mrs. Pattison’s acknowledgement that AT&T had not made any false,

    misleading, or deceptive statements in its dealings with her, the ALJ granted AT&T’s motion,

    leaving only the alleged slamming violation to be resolved. The record consists of 172 pages of

    transcript and 8 exhibits, all of which were received into evidence.

    Mrs. Pattison, AT&T, and the Staff filed briefs on January 25, 2002. On February 2, 2002,

    reply briefs were filed by AT&T and the Staff.

    On February 14, 2002, the ALJ issued a Proposal for Decision (PFD) in which she recom-

    mended finding that AT&T technically violated Section 505(1) of the MTA, concluding that no

    fine should be imposed because that violation arose from a bona fide error, and directing AT&T to

    pay Mrs. Pattison $656 to cover the costs she incurred in pursuing her complaint. Exceptions to

    the PFD were filed on February 28, 2002 by Mrs. Pattison, the Staff, and AT&T. On March 11,

    2002, the Staff and AT&T filed replies to exceptions.

    II.

    FACTUAL BACKGROUND

    Four witnesses testified in this proceeding. They consist of the Complainant, her husband, and

    two AT&T employees. No witnesses were sponsored by the Staff.

    Mrs. Pattison testified that she and her husband (Robert F. Pattison) reside at 7778 Walnut,

    Jenison, Michigan, where they have two phone lines. Their original line, having the telephone

    number (616) 457-0822, is not in dispute. It is the Pattisons’ second phone line, designated as

    (616) 457-3365, which serves as the genesis of this complaint.

  • Page 3 U-13164

    According to Mrs. Pattison, the 3365 number has been assigned to her family since 1972 and,

    for much of that time, has been listed under her various children’s names or initials. Tr. 10.

    Starting in about 1987, she continued, that phone number was listed with the local exchange

    carrier (LEC), Ameritech Michigan, under the name of the Pattisons’ youngest son, Robert K.

    Pattison. Tr. 11. Even though this son moved out in approximately 1990, Mrs. Pattison stated, she

    and her husband left the number in his name until 1995 because they “just didn’t think to change

    it.” Id. At that point, she went on to state, the 3365 number was finally changed from her son’s

    name to hers.

    Mrs. Pattison further testified that she and her husband first discovered that the 3365 number

    had been slammed when, on August 23, 2001, they received a bill for long-distance service from

    AT&T. Tr. 40. Because neither she nor her husband could understand why they had received a

    bill from a company other than their preferred long-distance carrier (VarTec, Inc.), Mrs. Pattison

    stated, they immediately contacted AT&T. At that point, she continued, AT&T advised them that

    their service had been changed pursuant to a letter of authorization (LOA), a copy of which was

    forwarded to them the following day. Tr. 7-9. As noted by Mrs. Pattison, and as reflected on

    Exhibit C-3, the LOA was in the form of a check for $75 that was made out to (and endorsed by)

    her son, Robert, but that included her home address and phone number instead of those belonging

    to her son.

    Based on subsequent discussions with her son, who currently lives in Sturgis, Michigan,

    Mrs. Pattison testified that the unauthorized change in her long-distance carrier must have

    occurred as follows. First, she stated, AT&T mailed the proposed LOA/check to Robert K.

    Pattison at her address, instead of his. Second, she claims to have subsequently hand-delivered the

    unopened letter containing that document to her son’s wife. Tr. 9. Third, she asserted, her

  • Page 4 U-13164

    daughter-in-law apparently put the check out for Mrs. Pattison’s son to sign “when she was doing

    the bills.” Id. Fourth, Mrs. Pattison stated, her son then signed the LOA/check and returned it to

    AT&T in the mistaken belief that it would switch his long-distance service provider, and not that

    of his mother. See, Tr. 46. As a result, she testified, her long distance service for the 3365 number

    was switched to AT&T on August 9, 2001. Tr. 12. Mrs. Pattison’s testimony concerning these

    events is corroborated, in many regards, by an affidavit prepared by her son and received into

    evidence as Exhibit C-2.

    Mrs. Pattison went on to allege that although the phone line’s long distance service was

    switched back to VarTec on August 24, 2001, and despite assurances from AT&T that everything

    had been straightened out, the company continued to seek recovery for calls placed during the

    period of unauthorized service. Specifically, she noted that AT&T sent her a bill for $125.78 on

    September 14, 2001. Tr. 13. According to Mrs. Pattison, it was not until November 2001 that

    AT&T finally sent her a statement setting forth all necessary credits and reflecting a zero balance.

    Tr. 50. Moreover, Mrs. Pattison concluded, this entire dispute could have been avoided if AT&T

    had simply checked the phone book (which showed that the 3365 number was assigned to her,

    instead of her son) before ordering the switch. Tr. 47-48.

    Mrs. Pattison’s husband testified that he made numerous calls to AT&T on August 23 and 24,

    2001 in an effort to determine why the switch occurred, as well as to rectify the problem.

    Tr. 52-55. It was during these calls, Mr. Pattison continued, that (1) he and his wife learned of the

    LOA/check that triggered the switch, (2) he advised AT&T that although only his wife was

    authorized to request a change in service providers for the 3365 number, she never provided such

    authorization, and (3) AT&T began making arrangements to have itself replaced as the long

    distance service provider for that line. Id. Mr. Pattison went on to state that he still questions

  • Page 5 U-13164

    whether the change in carriers was truly a mistake. This is because AT&T’s bill came addressed

    to Marilynn Pattison, notwithstanding the fact that the LOA/check was made out to--as well as

    signed by--his son, Robert K. Pattison. According to Mr. Pattison, this discrepancy indicates that

    AT&T’s representatives “knew what they were doing” when they initially submitted the primary

    interexchange carrier (PIC) change order for this phone line. Tr. 54.

    The first witness called by AT&T was John Carew, the manager of the company’s consumer

    acquisition list division. Mr. Carew began by noting that AT&T frequently uses LOA/checks as a

    way to market its services to prospective customers. According to him, each LOA/check comes

    attached to a letter containing the terms of the particular service offer, an example of which is set

    forth on Exhibit R-8. Mr. Carew went on to note that both the letter and the LOA/check are

    designed to give clear notice that, by signing the check, the customer is authorizing a change in

    long distance carriers for the specific phone number listed on these documents. Tr. 73-76.

    Moreover, he noted, a special area is included on the LOA/check for making any corrections to the

    potential customer’s address or phone number, if necessary. Id.

    Once the LOA/check has been signe