AT&T faces $17M verdict for overcharging Calif. customers

A federal jury in Kansas City has ordered AT&T to pay nearly $17 million for overcharging California customers when passing along Universal Service Fund billing. However, the jurors found there wasn't enough evidence showing a conspiracy with either Sprint or then-existing MCI to overcharge customers nationwide.

AT&T is currently studying its options on the breech-of-contract ruling, but management has to be happy the jury saw no evidence of antitrust activities. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs are "very pleased" and will ask the judge to tack on another $10 million in interest to the award; the judge is still working out how much of the award will go to attorneys fees and how the award will be paid out in the class action suit.

The antitrust case consolidated dozens of class-action suits filed across the country and covered customers who paid into the Universal Service Fund between Aug. 1, 2001, and March 31, 2003. Carriers are required to contribute a percentage of their gross revenues from interstate and international calls into the USF, with the FCC setting the contribution rate. AT&T described the fee on its bills as a "Universal Connectivity Charge."

Sprint was a co-defendant in the case, but the company settled up in September for $30 million.

For more:
- AP through chron.com reports $17M jury verdict against AT&T

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