Pacific Bell Plans to Close Payment Offices

In an effort to cut costs, San Francisco-based Pacific Bell plans to close its 25 remaining bill-payment offices statewide, including two in Los Angeles and one in Torrance, by the end of the year. PacBell has asked state regulators for permission to close eight offices by the end of May and the remaining offices over several months. The move is opposed by consumer groups and the Office of Ratepayer Advocates, a division of the state Public Utilities Commission. They say the closures will be a hardship for low-income customers, who will be forced to seek out retailers that have agreed to accept PacBell payments. PacBell said about 6% of its customers use the payment locations. The 400 authorized bill-payment sites, including Mail Boxes Etc. locations, do not currently charge for the service. PacBell has closed 32 public offices in California since 1985. In a separate action, the Utility Consumers' Action Network, a San Diego-based consumer group, filed a complaint with state regulators this week restating concerns about aggressive PacBell sales practices. Larry McNeely of the PUC said he has not received any complaints from the public on the sales issue.

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