Qwest Fined $20.3M, Says Agencies Dumped

The California Public Utilities Commission slapped Qwest Communications with a $20.3 million fine last week on charges of slamming and cramming, but the Denver-based telecom said it had already dismissed the guilty telemarketing agencies.

The CPUC said that in 1999 and 2000 Qwest failed to adequately supervise its telemarketing agents, leading to the unauthorized switching of the long-distance service of thousands of customers, a practice known as slamming. Thousands more, many of whom spoke Spanish or Asian languages, received unauthorized charges, a practice known as cramming, the commission said.

CPUC ordered Qwest to pay the fine and provide consumers with full refunds within 90 days. In a statement, Qwest called the fine “grossly excessive” and said it implemented a zero-tolerance policy, including the firing of some of its third-party telemarketing providers, that has virtually eliminated slamming and cramming. The company said it was considering an appeal of the fine.

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