Notes Book

Divorcing MCI

At a time when telecommunications costs were declining sharply, my MCI phone bill kept going up. I think they were adding a corporate corruption surcharge. We decided to switch. A web search turned up a small California company that didn't advertise on TV. We switched and now our total long-distance phone bill is usually lower than the MCI surcharges, not counting the charges per minute.

I assumed that starting up the other company would automatically turn off MCI. That was not the case. I got what I thought was the final bill from MCI which seemed steeper than usual, but I gritted my teeth and paid it.

The next month, I got another bill. It irritated me. I know that somewhere in the phone system, the information that I had switched existed. It has to in order for the system to know where to route my long distance calls. If MCI had wanted, they could have found out that I was no longer a customer, and stopped billing me. I decided I would not pay the bill, and if they kept bothering me, I would take them to small claims court. I wrote them a note to that effect.

I have had similar problems with AT&T and MSN. I think there is some kind of trend here.

Eventually, I got a call asking about the bill. I said I wouldn't pay. I hadn't been using the service, and I didn't intend to pay for it. She pointed out that there was $1.90 worth of actual phone usage on the bill. I pointed out that $25 dollars worth of surcharges for $1.90 worth of usage was unreasonable. She said she would have the service terminated.

The next month, I got a bill for $46--$44 dollars worth of surcharges for two months, and $1.90 worth of calls. I ignored the bill. Then I started getting daily phone calls from and MCI robot asking me to “discuss” the bill. I hung up on the robot daily.

Eventually, I realized I was going to have to make good on my promise to take them to court, or pay the bill. I am swamped with things I need to do, so I paid the bill. The robot phone calls have finally ceased.

Meanwhile, my stepdaughter signed up for the MCI neighborhood plan. They called her up and promised her unlimited local and long distance calls for $49 a month. When she got the bill it was $72. She called and complained, and they told her they had a tape of her agreeing to the deal. She never agreed to $72, but she did agree to unspecified surcharges.

I guess I could still take them to small claims court for fraud and harassment, and have a reasonably good chance of getting a judgment, which they would never pay. But it's just not worth my time. On the other hand, this same thing must be happening to a lot of people who are quitting MCI, and other big companies. Perhaps it could be a class-action suit.

So if anyone out there knows tort lawyers who might be interested, please let them know.

If you are thinking about doing business with Mean Company Incorporated, don't. If you are already doing business with them and want to quit, be sure to notify them in writing and in advance.