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GTE seeks end to "slamming'

GTE Corp. is looking for ways to discourage long-distance telephone companies from signing up new customers without their permission. "It's a growing problem, but it doesn't seem to be growing quite as dramatically in Florida as in other places," said Jan Morris, spokeswoman for GTE Florida in Tampa.

She said GTE gets about 200 complaints of unauthorized switches each month from customers in its six-county west central Florida service area. The company has about 1.4-million customers in the area.

Unauthorized switches _ known as "slamming" _ frequently occur after a call from a long-distance carrier's sales representative. Some representatives don't take no for an answer and even sign up prospective customers who have turned them down.

The telephone customer sometimes finds out what happened with the arrival of a GTE bill including a $4.14 charge for switching to a new carrier.

When a customer complains, the long-distance carrier is asked to provide documentation that the customer requested the switch, Morris said. Absent any proof, the customer is switched back to the former carrier and the switching charges are billed to offending company.

"It (a bill for $8.28) doesn't seem to be sufficiently discouraging, so on a national basis, GTE is looking at changing its procedure," Morris said. "We want to do something that would be a more significant discouragement."

She declined to discuss the options the company is considering.

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