SAN FRANCISCO — State regulators say that Pacific Bell takes too long to repair telephone lines, and are threatening to fine the telecommunications company $600,000 per month unless it improves.
The state Public Utilities Commission also ruled Tuesday that Pac Bell must remind customers calling for repairs that they can ask for a four-hour window for a repair visit, rather than potentially waiting an entire day for a technician.
The average number of hours Pac Bell customers had to wait to have a dial tone restored rose by 45 percent between 1996 and 2000, the PUC found.
The commission ruled that violates the state Public Utilities Code and a PUC order that requires Pac Bell to maintain or improve customer service over the five years following its merger with San Antonio-based SBC Communications, Inc.
The PUC ordered Pac Bell to repair phone lines within 29 hours from when a customer first reports trouble, or within 39 hours for a repeat problem. The PUC vowed to fine the company $300,000 each month it exceeds one of the standards, or double if it exceeds both.
The Office of Ratepayer Advocates, the consumer advocacy arm of the PUC, brought the complaints against Pac Bell.
Pac Bell Spokesman John Britton said the company has been well within the new targets in recent months, and that the company’s numbers can jump in any particular year if telephone lines are downed by bad weather or fire.
Britton said Pac Bell already tells customers about the four-hour appointment window through bill inserts and telephone directories.