A Houston long-distance company has been ordered to pay $260,000 in restitution and barred from doing business in Missouri after being accused of "slamming" more than 1,000 of the state's residents.
"Today brings a successful close to a five-year legal battle," said Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon, who sued Axces in March 1998. "Our tenacity has paid off with the result that consumers who were ripped off by Axces are going to receive restitution checks very soon, and Axces wont be doing business in Missouri ever again."
The Attorney Generals Office will be contacting victims by mail in order to provide them with full restitution. Any money remaining after restitution is distributed will be used to fund consumer education and protection efforts.
The judgment against Axces Inc. is the largest slamming case in Missouri and one of the larger state cases in the nation, Nixon said. But it's nothing new for Axces, which has a long record of problems with state regulators.
In November 2002, Texas ordered Axces to pay a $360,000 penalty for 72 documented cases of slamming phone customers. In 1998 the Texas PUC fined Axces $100,000 for slamming.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission filed a contempt action against Axces for nine violations of Oklahoma telephone laws and Corporation Commission rules. The complaint seeks the maximum fine allowed by law, the greater of $10,000 per occurrence or $500 per day per violation, and revocation of Axces's authority to resell telephone services in Oklahoma.
Nixon said that the company switched Missourians' long-distance service by persuading them to sign contest entry forms for a supposed raffle on a sports car. At the bottom of the entry form, in very small print, was a sentence authorizing Axces to switch the consumer's long-distance service, raise their rates and add on various monthly charges.
The scam was usually carried out at shopping malls, fairs and other locations with heavy pedestrian traffic, Nixon said.