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MSN Glitch Is Costing Internet Users Hundreds of Dollars

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RALEIGH — 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 gotlast month's phone bill that included $361 in long distance charges to aChapel Hill number. The number was for his Internet connectionthroughMicrosoft Networks.

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

"We pretty much figured we'd pay itand leave it at that," he says.

Eason then sawourstoryon Gabrielle Schmidt and others whoalso had outrageous phone bills because they toowere incorrectly re-routed to that same Chapel Hill number.

Fifty-one people have complained to Five On Your Side about the very sameproblem. Many sent us e-mails and letters detailing thecharges. When we called MSN the first time, spokesman Mark Wain told usthe company was notaware of any other complaints and was "at aloss" as to how the problem was happening.

However, lots of complainants say they have been battling over thisincident withMSN for weeks. According to our research, all ofthe charges began mid-January, which several ofour complainants say happens to be when MSNautomatically sent a dial-up upgrade.

In most cases without any action on thepart of the computer users, the problem wassomehow fixed by the end of February.

One complainant says an MSN customer servicerepresentative told her that, during the upgrade, they "lostlocal numbers for several areas."Several complainants had online chats where representatives insisted theChapel Hill number was not long distance.

Even though MSN said representatives would be prepared to handlecomplaint calls after our first story, not one ofthe reps our complainants spoke to knew anythingabout the problem.

"It makes me mad. It makes me mad that they don'tstep up their customer service and do somethingabout it," he says.

If you have the same problem, it is important to keep calling MSN'scustomer service line as amatter of record and document everything. The Attorney General's office is also investigating thesituation, so it is important to document your complaint with them at919-716-6000

MSN has agreed to refund charges for three of the complainantsso far. Anyone with similar problems should call MSN at800-386-5550.

BellSouthsayscustomers who are having a hardship paying the bills inquestion should call the customer service number listed on their phonebill.

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

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