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Detailed bill may explain calls

I am having a problem with GTE in the "Extended Calling Service Summary" portion of my bill. This covers calls to Tampa, etc. The charge is 25 cents per call. The number called is never listed.

In July and August of 1998, I found 23 and 46 of these calls on my bill and discovered that I was dialing a Tampa number every time I connected to the Internet. I quickly found a local number to use.

In September, only one such call appeared on my statement. November's had zero in this category, January had five, February two, March zero and April five. The problem is not the amount of the bill. It is that with the need to dial the 813 area code to access these numbers, I would know if I was inadvertently using it.

I called GTE in March to ask what numbers were being called and was told that it purges its systems and that I would have to pay a monthly fee for detailed billing to obtain such information. How can I know if the charges are legitimate?

The second disputed item deals with nuisance calls. For over a year now, I have been plagued with calls in the middle of the night to the middle of the day. I believe it might be a computer or fax machine because there is only a prolonged beeeeeeeep, nothing else. Huge amounts of my answering machine tape have been taken up by such calls, not to mention being awakened at 2, 4 and 6 a.m. _ all in one night.

I have tried to retrieve the number by dialing +69, but whatever it is that is dialing my number is not accessible through that mode. GTE told me to use "call trace," at a charge of $3.50, to find the culprit, but still no luck. GTE claims that the number is through someone else and that it can't control it.

GTE offered to change my number for "one time only without a fee," but I have had my phone number for 20 years and declined. Besides, I've been plagued with similar calls, without the beep, on the second line that I had installed a few years ago for my Internet service, so I don't see that as a viable answer.

I have spoken often to GTE's office about this problem, but not in the past four or five months since it doesn't seem to do any good. Ironically, the number I dial to get in touch with GTE is a Tampa number. Yes, I have to dial 813 before the number. No, that doesn't account for any of the mysterious calls to Tampa.

I believe that your inquiry to GTE would be of great assistance. Carol Huber

Response: Cristina Coffin, GTE's public affairs manager, say that GTE will send you, free of charge for 90 days, its most detailed billing, so that you will be able to determine to whom the calls to Tampa are being made.

At the end of that time, if you still wish to have it, you will have to pay for the service. She said she discussed this with you and that there is a possibility someone else in your household is making these calls. She will call you after your August billing date to discuss any calls to Tampa that might have appeared on your bill.

With regard to the nuisance calls, Coffin said that they appear to be computer-generated solicitation calls, which are difficult to trace. Call trace cannot ordinarily trace such calls until three calls have come in.

You have the option, she said, of using the call block feature on your phone to block calls from that number. The problem, she said, is that only 10 calls can be blocked, and if you are receiving these nuisance calls from more numbers than that, there is nothing you can do.

Turning your telephone's ringer down or off is, of course, one option. The problem is that you wouldn't hear any calls, including those that are legitimate and/or urgent.

Expect grill refund

I purchased a Mighty Pro Grill from a late night TV infomercial on May 13. I didn't receive it, so I called at the end of June and asked for a refund. I was told that was not possible as the order was already being processed. I called again in July and was told to wait another 10 days.

I want a refund. I no longer want the grill because it's taking too long. Also, I'm told a different story every time about what's going on with the delivery of the item. Penelope Prunty

Response: According to Sabine Lehmann of Sylmark in Los Angeles, a check for $19.95 will be mailed to you. Let us know if you don't get it.

Reaction

I wrote to you about a $250 parking ticket I received when I parked next to a handicapped parking space. I sent you pictures of the parking space and you said it appeared I had parked in a handicapped access isle that was not painted with the diagonal lines required by Florida law.

Jed Pittman, the Pasco County clerk, could not void the ticket, so you sent me a copy of the relevant Florida statute and a previous Action column on this subject and suggested I take them along with my pictures to court. You thought I stood a good chance of winning.

I want to let you know that I appeared at the hearing armed with the information you provided. The hearing officer reviewed the case and informed me that she would let me know the judgment in a week.

One week later, I received the decision that my case had been dismissed since the space was not distinctly marked as required by Pasco County and the Florida statutes. I am very grateful for your help and Mr. Pittman's support. Thank you very much. Evelyn Miller

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request for Action. Names will not be omitted except in unusual circumstances. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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