Charge for paper telephone bill irks reader

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DEAR SUN SPOTS: My telephone company charges me $2.95 for a “paper invoice fee” because I don’t want to give them access to my checking account and don’t want to get the invoice via e-mail. Why are they allowed to do this? Do all phone companies do this? —No Name, Farmington

ANSWER: You didn’t specify what kind of phone service — cell phone, landline or long distance, but hopefully the answer from Wayne Jortner, senior counsel at the Public Advocate Office, will answer your question:

“The short answer is that rates for long-distance service have been mostly deregulated by the Public Utilities Commission. They have declared long distance to be a competitive market, so it becomes the responsibility of the customer to switch to another service provider if the consumer doesn’t like the rates or the service of a given company.

“A paper billing charge is really just part of the rates, but limited to customers who won’t accept the bill by e-mail. So there is no formal approval of that charge but no prohibition of it either. The only regulated phone rates are for those of basic local service from the local telephone company.

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“However, there are two relevant state statutes — one requires a 25-day notice for any rate increases, so if the paper billing charge appeared without notice, that would be a violation of law.

“The other statute is new and bans surcharges that do not represent services authorized by the consumer or governmentally mandated fees. Since the customer was probably told about the $2.95 fee in advance and accepted those terms, that statute probably would not prohibit the charge.

“We recommend Pioneer Telephone for most customers who use long distance service. They have a new monthly fee of $2, but they have the lowest rates and they provide a credit of $20 for any customer who mentions the Public Advocate or the Ratewatcher Guide.

“If you’re not familiar with the Ratewatcher Guide, you can see it at http://maine.gov/meopa/ratewatcher/RatewatcherFALL-09-web.pdf. A new one will be done by this fall. Feel free to contact me if I can be of any further assistance at any time.”

If this doesn’t answer your question, you can contact Wayne directly. He is most helpful. He may be reached at 287-2445 or by e-mail at Wayne.R.Jortner@maine.gov. The website for the Public Advocate Office is www.maine.gov/meopa.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I would like to know how to reach Paul Jones from the story about yoga. I cut out some of the article but missed the second page and lost that to recycling. Thank you for a very informative column. — Ruth Estes via e-mail

ANSWER: He may be reached at the Chill Yoga Studio, 513-8819.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: On Saturday, May 1, as I came out of Hannaford’s supermarket with my groceries, a young man came running in back of me and snatched my purse, then running into the alley in back of Hannaford near the railroad tracks.

I want to thank everyone who got involved. One couple sitting in their car with their sons and a lady living in the elderly apartments called the police as it happened. Also my niece and nephew, who were out after doing their grocery shopping.

Thank you to police officers Lt. Scott Watkins and Officer Matt Dailey, who found my purse so fast. Thank God that we still have good people in the world who look out for their neighbors. — No Name, No Town

DEAR SUN SPOTS: The Newman Cemetery Association of Carthage needs volunteers to help with cleanup for both Newman Cemeteries in Carthage on May 22, with a rain date of May 23. We’ll meet at 7 a.m. at the Carthage Town office for doughnuts, muffins and coffee with work to begin at 8 a.m. Lunch will be served at the Carthage Town office after the work is done. Please bring tools such as rakes, trimmers, gloves etc. For more information, call me at 562-7072. Thank you. — Barbie Berry

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be e-mailed to sunspots@sunjournal.com.

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