ARCHIVED -  Telecom Order CRTC 99-507

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Telecom Order


Ottawa, 7 June 1999


Telecom Order CRTC 99-507


AT&T Canada Corp. (AT&T Canada) (formerly AT&T Canada Long Distance Services Company) filed an application dated 21 August 1998, pursuant to Part VII of the CRTC Telecommunications Rules of Procedure, requesting that the Commission settle a billing dispute between AT&T Canada and BC TEL.


File No.: 8622-A4-14/98


1.AT&T Canada stated that it conducted an internal billing investigation in 1997, and the results demonstrated that BC TEL was overbilling AT&T Canada. AT&T Canada submitted that the billing dispute arose as a result of BC TEL billing certain facilities as analogue, instead of digital, as had been originally ordered by AT&T Canada. AT&T Canada is requesting that the Commission direct BC TEL to provide AT&T Canada a credit of $325,131.07 for the disputed amount.


2.AT&T Canada stated that as a result of its complaint to BC TEL on 24 November 1997, the latter began billing the circuits in question at the appropriate rates.


3.AT&T Canada also stated that in January 1998, BC TEL representatives contacted AT&T Canada and offered a payment of $125,000 to settle the dispute. AT&T Canada refused the offer claiming that it wanted the full amount, and that BC TEL should not benefit from its own carelessness.


4.BC TEL replied that AT&T Canada is not entitled to the credit it requests. BC TEL stated that the two companies have put in place a confirmation process for orders. BC TEL provides confirmation to AT&T Canada via facsimile, identifying how the circuits will be provisioned, including circuit numbers which would identify the type of circuit and the non-recurring and monthly charges for each element of the circuit ordered. This confirmation is provided within two working days of receiving an order and gives AT&T Canada ample opportunity to verify the order. BC TEL indicated that the confirmation process was put in place at AT&T Canada's request.


5.Furthermore, BC TEL noted that its monthly billing information identifies how circuits are being billed, and thus gives AT&T Canada the opportunity to confirm whether or not BC TEL has correctly installed and billed circuits.


6.BC TEL stated that AT&T Canada did not challenge the circuit confirmations being provided, or the billing information. It was only when AT&T Canada conducted its internal investigation that it presented its claim. BC TEL submitted that it was following AT&T Canada's instructions, and that under the circumstances, the latter is not entitled to a credit.


7.AT&T Canada in reply noted that when confirmation is sent to AT&T Canada, it is sent to AT&T Canada provisioners who track installation dates and coordinate testing. AT&T Canada stated that these individuals could not be expected to know that embedded in the circuit number is an indication of service type which would indicate that the service is different from that which was ordered. At the time that confirmation is sent to AT&T Canada, its personnel would not have known that there is substitution of services, and therefore no consent can be inferred. It is a matter of common business practice that customers receive clear notice when they are provided with substitute (inferior) service.


8.AT&T Canada also submitted that BC TEL's suggestion that "AT&T Canada did not dispute BC TEL's billing information until it conducted the above-noted billing investigation" is immaterial in determining whether AT&T Canada merits a credit. According to AT&T Canada, it is entitled to full reimbursement retroactive to the date at which time the over-billing commenced, consistent with Article 19.1 of BC TEL's Terms of Service.


9.The Commission notes AT&T Canada's submission that after its complaint to BC TEL, the latter corrected the error and began billing the circuits as digital.


10.The Commission also notes BC TEL's argument above that AT&T Canada did not dispute the billing statements but agrees with AT&T Canada's interpretation of Article 19.1 of BC TEL's Terms of Service. The Commission notes, in this respect, that pursuant to Article 19.1 in the case of a recurring charge that was overbilled, BC TEL must credit the customer with the excess back to the date of the error, subject to any applicable limitation periods provided by law.


11.BC TEL also argued that AT&T Canada did not challenge the confirmation, particularly with respect to changes in services to be provided. The Commission, however, is of the view that the telephone company has the responsibility to fulfill an order as requested. In the event that it cannot do so, the onus is on the telephone company to make clear to the customer that it will change the service being provided, giving an explanation for the changes, especially any differences in price. In the Commission's view, the record does not show that BC TEL had communicated the changes clearly.


12.In view of the above arguments, the Commission considers that it is appropriate for BC TEL to credit the amount that was overbilled to AT&T Canada. The Commission is also of the view that it is appropriate to include interest charges in the total amount credited, in accordance with Article 19.3 of BC TEL's Terms of Service.


13.Accordingly, the Commission directs BC TEL to credit AT&T Canada with the amount as claimed, plus interest, as required in BC TEL's Terms of Service.


Secretary General


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