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FairPoint Disputes Claims It Violated Refund Policy

FairPoint Communications is disputing claims that it may owe thousands of customers credit for repair delays last year because it potentially violated a Public Service Board rule.

The issue of the company’s credit policycame up during the Public Service Board’s investigation into the high number of repair delays experienced by FairPoint customers last year.

In testimony filed with the board, the Public Service Department says the company’s policy violates a board rule because FairPoint requires customers who have already reported a service outage to make a follow up call to receive a credit on their bill.

FairPoint Maine President Mike Reed, who speaks for the company on regulatory issues, says the policy has been in place since before FairPoint arrived in Vermont. “We are doing it the same way Verizon did; the same way that we’ve been doing it,” he says.

The Public Service Board rule says in part that a bill credit for a service outage lasting more than 24 hours “will be provided to customers who contact the carrier reporting the outage ...” The state reads that to mean no follow up call should be required.

The Department of Public Service says in the last six months of 2014 alone, more than 10,000 customers who may have been due credits didn’t receive them because they failed to make the follow up call.

Reed says the company disputes that number, but more importantly, he says, the department is not reading the rule correctly. “It’s an interpretation. We still really believe we’re doing it properly,” he says.

FairPoint says the board has made it clear in the past that if a provider has no way of knowing how long a customer has been without service, the rule should not apply.

In a testimony filed last week with the Public Service Board, the company says it doesn’t have the ability to determine how long someone is without telephone service unless the customer calls after service is restored to establish how much credit they are due.

FairPoint says the board has made it clear in the past that if a provider has no way of knowing how long a customer has been without service, the rule should not apply.

How the rule should be interpreted will ultimately be up to the Public Service Board. The board’s investigation is scheduled to continue through the summer.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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