Local News

MSN Glitch Costing Internet Users Hundreds of Dollars

Posted June 12, 2001

— A costly problem for customers of a popular Internet service provider is more widespread than it first appeared.

Richard Eason says he was flabbergasted when he got last month's phone bill that included $361 in long distance charges to a Chapel Hill number. The number was for his Internet connection through

Microsoft Networks

.

Eason knew all the access numbers he originally chose were local ones he had used for two-and-a-half years without a problem, so he called MSN where he says he got nothing but the runaround.

"We pretty much figured we'd pay it and leave it at that," he says. Eason then saw

our story

on Gabrielle Schmidt and others who also had outrageous phone bills because they too were incorrectly re-routed to that same Chapel Hill number.

Fifty-one people have complained to Five On Your Side about the very same problem. Many sent us e-mails and letters detailing the charges. When we called MSN the first time, spokesman Mark Wain told us the company was not aware of any other complaints and was "at a loss" as to how the problem was happening.

However, lots of complainants say they have been battling over this incident with MSN for weeks. According to our research, all of the charges began mid-January, which several of our complainants say happens to be when MSN automatically sent a dial-up upgrade.

In most cases, without any action on the part of the computer users, the problem was somehow fixed by the end of February.

One complainant says an MSN customer service representative told her that, during the upgrade, they "lost local numbers for several areas."

Several complainants had online chats where representatives insisted the Chapel Hill number was not long distance.

Even though MSN said representatives would be prepared to handle complaint calls after our first story, not one of the reps our complainants spoke to knew anything about the problem.

"It makes me mad. It makes me mad that they don't step up their customer service and do something about it," he says.

If you have the same problem, it is important to keep calling MSN's customer service line as a matter of record and document everything. The Attorney General's office is also investigating the situation, so it is important to document your complaint with them by calling 919-716-6000

MSN has agreed to refund charges for three of the complainants so far. Anyone with similar problems should call MSN at

800-386-5550

.

BellSouth

says customers who are having a hardship paying the bills in question should call the customer service number listed on their phone bill.

Provided your account is in good standing, BellSouth may be able to work out payment extensions for that portion of your bill. However, you must make them aware of the problem as soon as possible.

Reporter:

Monica Laliberte

Photographer:

Robert Meikle

5 On Your Side Producer:

Lori Lair

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