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Telecom giant Qwest pays $20.3M fine

SAN FRANCISCO — Qwest Communications this week paid $20.3 million to the state’s General Fund, after the state Public Utilities Commission determined that the telecommunications giant violated state statutes protecting consumers from unauthorized charges and changes in service.

The Public Utilities Commission ordered the payment after investigating Qwest’s practices beginning in November of 2000.

The commission determined that the Denver-based company inadequately supervised its sales agents, resulting in thousands of cases of “slamming,” where customers’ long distance service was switched without their permission.

The PUC said the incidents of slamming were highest among the company’s Spanish and Asian language residential customers.

The PUC also determined that Qwest was placing unauthorized charges on thousands of customers’ telephone bills, a practice known as “cramming.”

The Associated Press