The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission is requiring AT&T to pay thousands of dollars in refunds to families of prison inmates who were overcharged for collect phone calls placed from two Eastern Washington state prisons. Prisoners in Washington cannot make direct calls outside the institution, but instead make outgoing collect calls from pay phones. The UTC announced that it fined AT&T more than $300,000 for charging higher rates than allowed for thousands of collect calls made from Airway Heights Corrections Center in Spokane and the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.
Prisoners’ families and others were overcharged $67,295 for the collect calls by AT&T's billing agent, Zero Plus Dialing. Refunds are available starting Feb. 1. We're told that AT&T has set up a toll-free number at 1-800-826-9923 so consumers can ask for a reimbursement form or check if their phone number is among the 29,971 on the overcharged phone call list. (Note, however, that when we tried calling today, we received a message indicating that the number had been changed and were redirected to a general consumer information phone menu. We'll try again on Feb. 1 and let you know if it's working OK.)