Attorney General says AT&T must restore jobs to address dangerous customer service failures
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Sep 8, 2008 - 1:18 PM

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was joined by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) at a press conference and rally today to announce legal action seeking to compel AT&T to comply with state requirements and improve its consistently poor customer service.

Making such improvements would require restoring at least some of nearly 1,000 customer service-related jobs eliminated in recent years, said Blumenthal and CWA Local 1298 President William Henderson.

Blumenthal and the CWA have formally intervened in a proceeding at the state Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC) to enforce existing repair service standards and order AT&T to improve service. The original petition was filed by the Office of the Consumer Counsel (OCC).

Blumenthal said, “The DPUC should delay no longer holding AT&T accountable for its absolutely appalling disrespect for consumers and disregard for the law. The company’s eight-year uninterrupted record of failing minimum standards -- including timely repair of non-functioning lines -- is outrageous and unconscionable. AT&T needs to be taught how to answer its own phones and keep its lines working.

“These 1.67 million telephones are not a luxury. They are lifelines -- to hospitals and police and families. Without the means to stay connected, citizens are at risk. AT&T answers its phones four times slower than other telephone companies, and its call abandonment rate is four times higher.”

Henderson said, “AT&T has been downsizing since 2001. Over 1,000 jobs have been eliminated in Connecticut since that time. As a result, service levels have declined. Our members deal with dissatisfied customers on a daily basis, but are not allowed to care for the customer as we once did. We are the same workers who once received awards and commendations for providing excellent customer service, including the JD Power Award. It is time for AT&T to stop making excuses and invest in customer service needs right here in Connecticut.”

AT&T has for eight years failed to meet DPUC’s requirement that it fix 90 percent of out-of-service phones within 24 hours, often missing the mark by a significant margin, the OCC says in its filing. In addition, consumers calling AT&T’s customer service line have to wait so long -- on average about two minutes in 2006 and two minutes and 28 seconds in 2007 -- that as many as 12 percent hang up before anyone at the company picks up.

Blumenthal said, “AT&T must obey state law requiring it to fix most broken phones in 24 hours, and we will seek to compel the company to take the necessary steps -- including restoration of jobs -- to do so.

“AT&T is effectively hanging up on its customers’ service complaints. The company makes costumers calling consumer service wait on average more than two minutes before a pickup, an unacceptably long delay causing as many as 12 percent to simply give up. Customers of other state phone companies have their calls answered in 35 seconds or less -- about four times faster. State law demands AT&T pick up faster, and we will fight to enforce that rule.

“Unreliable telephone service is dangerous to consumers -- unacceptable and unconscionable. AT&T must answer our call: hire skilled workers and restore customer care. AT&T’s plummeting consumer service -- for two years the poorest among all reporting companies in terms of call response and level of calls abandoned by consumers -- is no coincidence. These failures are the direct result of deep and damaging job cuts that have undercut livelihoods and consumer confidence.”

Blumenthal added, “Our DPUC action asks that AT&T be compelled to restore customer service -- now so abysmal that customers are simply giving up and hanging up. Employees face the unfair and unfeasible task of filling the vast void left by jobs that remain unfilled. Consumers and employees deserve more, and we are demanding it.”

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