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Class Claims AT&T Double-Bills on Surcharge

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - In a federal class action, AT&T customers say the phone company overbills them by double-billing, adding a surcharge for both in-state and interstate services, though the state surcharge can be applied only to in-state services. The class claims AT&T disguises the illicit charge on phone bills as "Government Fees & Taxes."

According to the complaint, AT&T overcharges its customers under the rubric of California's version of a "Universal Service Fund." The fund was created by the Federal Communications Commission to "promote universal telecommunication service in low-income, rural and other high-cost areas. Telecommunications companies may pass along these costs via line item charges on their customers' telephone bills."

But the class claims AT&T calculated its charges for California's universal service surcharge based on percentage rates, set by the California Public Utilities Commission, "by assessing both the intrastate and interstate telecommunications services of its California customers. In other words, AT&T wrongfully applies the CPUC percentages to interstate revenues. As a result, AT&T overbills its California customers.

"Neither federal nor California law obligates or authorizes AT&T to bill its customers for California End-User Surcharges assed on the same telecommunications services revenue stream assess for the Fed-USF. By billing its California customers in this manner - and representing the charges to be 'Government Fees & Taxes' - AT&T places unclear, misleading and incorrect descriptions of its charges on its telephone bills in violation of the FCC's Truth-in-Billing requirements," the complaint states.

The class seeks restitution and damages for violations of the Communications Act and California's Unfair Competition Law. It is represented by Eric Gibbs with Girard Gibbs.

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