Millions of AT&T; Bills in Error; Computer Blamed

Associated Press

Up to 2 million AT&T; telephone customers across the country have been billed for payments they already made and some accounts have mistakenly been referred to collection agencies, AT&T; officials said.

"We're sorry this happened and we apologize. . . . We want to make sure people's credit ratings aren't affected," American Telephone & Telegraph Co. spokeswoman Linda Beighley in Basking Ridge, N.J., said Thursday.

The nationwide billing problem, which came to public attention in Providence, R.I., stemmed from introduction of a new computer system.

One million to 2 million customers who paid bills for November have received subsequent bills saying their payments were not received and their accounts are past due, Peter Cassels, an AT&T; spokesman based in Providence, said.

He said AT&T; received the payments for the residence and small business accounts, but did not properly post them in their billing records.

Cassels said the problem occurred when two computer systems, covering leased or purchased equipment and long-distance calls, were merged in an attempt to make AT&T;'s toll-free consumer service numbers easier to use.

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