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Five On Your Side Goes Distance To Help Sprint Customer

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, N.C. — Part of moving to a new residence means getting a new phone number. Just because the number is new to you does not mean it is a brand new number.

Kathleen Doyle got a new phone number that still had an old bill attached to it.

In June, Doyle tried faxing an invitation to her husband's birthday party to President George W. Bush, hoping for a signed birthday card. The President did not get the fax.

It was the first time Doyle tried using her separate fax number for a long-distance call since getting it a year earlier.

A recording stated, "Your long distance service has been temporarily interrupted."

"Well, I thought exactly what it said, that it was just a temporary problem. I thought hey, pick up the phone and call Sprint and we'll get this solved no problem," Doyle said.

When Doyle called Sprint, a representative told her the line was blocked for long-distance.

"I said 'A block? For what?' They said for nonpayment on long distance. I said we haven't made any long distance calls. None," Doyle said.

Sprint told Doyle she owed more than $400 in long distance charges. Doyle knew the bill was not hers.

It turns out the person who had the number three years before her owed the debt. Sprint insisted to get long-distance service Doyle had to pay the bill.

"I told them why should I pay someone else's bill?" Doyle said.

Sprint told Doyle to call collections. Collections told her said to call Sprint.

"It was back and forth, back and forth, from the middle of June until September," she said.

After calls to nine different numbers, Doyle called 5 On Your Side. Five On Your Side called Sprint spokesman Tom Matthews, who called Doyle.

Matthews gave her an "Executive Services Number" that he said would get her directly to the person who would straighten it out. Again, it did not.

The next day, someone from Sprint called Doyle back and resolved the problem.

The Sprint spokesman said the bad debt "should have been purged" when Doyle got the number.He called the situation "rare," but said the company is looking into procedures to make sure it does not happen again.


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