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GTE CALIFORNIA AGREES WITH CPUC REPORT ON SALES ABUSE; COMPANY CONTINUES REFUNDS, PLANS FUNDS FOR COMMUNITY OUTREACH

 THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., May 12 /PRNewswire/ -- Responding to a California Public Utilities Commission report on 1992 marketing abuse in GTE California's Language Assistance Center, a GTE official today said the company will continue refunds to affected customers, as well as implement an extensive, multimillion-dollar customer outreach and education program.
 The report by the CPUC's Advisory and Compliance Division follows GTE California's action last June, after routine, quality-control checks indicated that some non-English-speaking customers may have been charged for custom-calling services they had not ordered.
 GTE initially suspended 20 employees and subsequently fired 17 for violating the company's customer-contact policies.
 "Our company initiated this investigation, and now, we plan to fully comply with the CPUC's recommendations," said Kevin Payne, GTE director of regulatory and industry affairs.
 "Besides continuing refunds to affected non-English-speaking customers, we plan to survey our English-speaking customer-contact offices to ensure that all our customers are getting the highest quality of service possible," he said.
 Payne said GTE has refunded about $2 million to customers thus far, and that total refunds could reach more than $3 million. "We will match the amount refunded to customers in a community outreach program," he said. "And all refund and outreach money will be borne by GTE; not its ratepayers."
 Payne said GTE also will hire independent consultants/ academicians to evaluate the company's sales incentive compensation plan and help GTE develop a business ethics component in its sales training program.
 He said company employees' efforts to help customers understand the functions and benefits of custom-calling services should not be generally and unfairly characterized as "high-pressure sales tactics," as implied in the commission report.
 "Our customer-contact people truly have the responsibility to offer, explain and sell telephone services that enhance customers' communications capabilities in their homes and businesses," he said. "Many customers choose to subscribe to, or keep a custom-calling service, once they fully understand how it works."
 Payne said GTE's investigation has shown that while a small group of its employees were violating company sales practices, "our findings, and those of the CPUC substantiate that the lion's share of our customer-contact and sales people are honest, hard-working employees."
 He said GTE's internal March-April 1993 measurements for customer satisfaction among its English-speaking customers show that only 1.2 percent of 2,586 customers contacted, requested any change (either additions or deletions) in services that appeared on their initial bills.
 Payne said GTE's 1993 compensation plan was revised to place increased emphasis on quality. "As a result of improvements we've made, customers' overall rating of our interaction with them in the LAC was 2.9 percent better in 1993 than during the same time period in 1992."
 He said GTE is asking the CPUC to defer its recommendation that GTE alter its incentive compensation plan, until consultant/ academician results are finished. He said such a deferral would enable the company to implement concurrent compensation and training changes recommended by the CPUC report.
 "And if the consultants' analyses indicate we need to change our compensation plan, we would then incorporate their recommendations retroactive to May 1, 1993," he said.
 Payne said GTE will file a full compliance plan with the CPUC June 7. The company would complete implementation of the plan within 90 days' approval by the commission.
 -0- 5/12/93
 /CONTACT: Larry Cox of GTE California, 800-227-5556/


CO: GTE California ST: California IN: UTI SU:

JB-MS -- LA025 -- 7669 05/12/93 14:52 EDT
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Date:May 12, 1993
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