SEATTLE -- Attorney General Christine Gregoire today opposed Qwest's request to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) for early termination of a service quality performance program originally established as part of the Qwest-US West merger.
Qwest agreed to the service quality performance program as a condition of approval of its merger with US West in 2000. The program is composed of eight service quality performance benchmarks. If Qwest's performance falls below those benchmarks the company must compensate customers. Qwest is potentially liable for up to $20 million annually in customer bill credits for failing to meet minimum service standards.
In papers filed today, the Public Counsel section noted that Qwest has failed to meet five of the eight performance benchmarks every year since the service quality performance program went into effect in 2001 and has paid nearly $7 million in customer credits ($3.17 million for 2001, $1.89 million for 2002, and $1.9 million for 2003). Benchmarks not met include:
- completion of 90% of orders for new lines within five business days,
- completion of 99% of orders within 90 days,
- repairing out of service conditions within two working days,
- answering 80% of calls to its business office within 30 seconds,
- responding to WUTC consumer complaint staff within two business days.
Public Counsel's filing argued that with Qwest's continued domination of the residential market, competition is not yet a realistic incentive to improve service quality. The service quality performance program is still needed to ensure customers are not harmed by the merger, the filing argues.
The Service Quality Performance Program took effect January 1, 2001. Under the terms of the merger settlement agreement adopted by the WUTC, the service quality performance program will terminate December 31, 2005, but Qwest was permitted to request early termination after December 31, 2003. Qwest's petition seeks to terminate the plan effective December 31, 2003. Evidentiary hearings in the case will be held June 7-8 at the WUTC in Olympia.