Moving to trim costs, AT&T; Corp. will start
charging customers an extra $1.50 a month if they want to continue
receiving their long distance bill with their local phone bill.
AT&T;, the nation's largest provider of long-distance service,
began sending out notices to its customers earlier this month of
the change in policy, effective April 1.
Mark Siegel, an AT&T; spokesman, said Thursday that the company
decided to charge the fee because the costs for printing it and
adding to local providers' bills was becoming ungainly.
"There is certainly a cost issue in having billing done by a
local company," Siegel said. "The joint bill made sense once, but
given current competitive realities, it makes less and less
Customers can avoid the charge by requesting their bill be
delivered separately or paying online.
AT&T; isn't the first to tack on the fee.
Last year WorldCom's MCI long-distance division, the nation's
second-largest long distance company, introduced a $1.50 fee in an
effort to cut costs, too.
And Sprint Corp., the nation's third-largest long-distance
company, introduced the same fee in January.
Monica Evans-Trout, a Sprint spokeswoman, said the cost of the
company's long distance bills being printed as part of a local bill
increased 30 percent from last year.
"These agreements are negotiated with the local telephone
companies, but they've just increased dramatically," she said.
David Burks, an analyst with the brokerage J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L.
Lyons in Louisville, Ky., said the additional fee imposed by all
three companies could lead to better communication with their
customers because most would opt for a separate bill or pay it
"Anything they can do to strengthen their relationship with
their customers is obviously a long-term plus," said Burks. "It
would give them a chance to, in effect, have direct communication
with the customer and tout their services."
Ken Kurtz, an AT&T; customer in Lexington, Ky., said he will
start getting his long-distance bill mailed to him separately.
That, he said, "will allow me to save $16 a year," by not
getting the bill with his phone bill from local provider Verizon.