Originally created 09/07/00

BellSouth redesigns phone bill



BellSouth has redesigned its decade-old residential phone bill, making it larger and easier to read.

Customers with multiple services - such as local phone, wireless and Internet - began receiving the new 8-inch by 10-inch bill this week as part of a months-long trial period.

All 14.5 million BellSouth customers in nine states will begin getting the new bill during first-quarter 2001, company spokesman Rich Jeffers said.

Aside from being 20 percent larger, the new bill format is laid out in a vertical column format and uses easily recognizable graphic icons to help customers distinguish local phone charges from other services, such as paging.

"The old bill, quite frankly, was too hard to read and follow. It was too cluttered," Mr. Jeffers said. "The new bill has more white space. It is more pleasing to the eye."

The revamped bill better identifies third-party charges from long-distance companies, allowing customers to more quickly spot telecommunications scams such as "slamming" and "cramming."

Slamming is the term for having one's long-distance service switched without consent, usually by a disreputable company. Cramming is when fraudulent companies insert bogus charges into a local phone bill.

"The new bills are much more user-friendly," said Merle Temple, BellSouth's Augusta market manager. "Customers will be able to see and understand each charge better than before."

The new BellSouth bills will not have the blue and burgundy-colored stripe but will still contain the olive-colored return envelope.

BellSouth began redesigning its bills more than two years ago based on suggestions that arose through consumer focus groups. The Atlanta-based company said it needed a new format that better itemized charges from different businesses ventures it has created during the past few years.

Prior to telecommunications industry deregulation, the company was responsible only for a local dial tone. Now the Baby Bell sells wireless services, Internet access and digital cable TV in certain markets under the Americast name.

BellSouth has filed applications with state and federal regulators to offer long-distance phone service in Georgia.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486.