Do At&T's New Cards Call Up Confusion?

Is American Telephone & Telegraph Co. unfairly using its new calling cards to reassert its monopoly over long-distance service from pay phones? That's what competitors claim. AT&T's old calling cards worked at any pay phone. But its new calling cards and AT&T Universal Cards won't work at pay phones that use a different long-distance carrier--unless customers know how to "dial around" that carrier by punching in 10288 to reach AT&T. One result: Hotels and owners of pay phones that use other carriers are being deluged with complaints from AT&T customers who can't figure out how to place calls. That has persuaded some proprietors to switch back to the AT&T network.

On Apr. 9, the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to address the issue. AT&T has told the agency that it is only trying to protect its customers from accidentally making calls at rates that are often double or triple what AT&T charges. But the Competitive Telecommunications Assn., made up of smaller carriers, says AT&T's new practice is spreading "confusion and frustration" that crimps their business. It wants the FCC to force AT&T to make its new cards work at any pay phone.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.