Utahns who received notice earlier this week that their long-distance telephone service carrier would be changed need not worry any longer.
Monte Stern, president of Cyberlink in West Los Angeles, said his company has dropped all plans to offer Cyberlink's discount service to residential customers in Utah."We want to emphasize that no one has been switched over at this time and that no will be switched in the future," Stern said.
Earlier this week about 30,000 Utahns received letters saying their long-distance carrier would be switched later this month. The letter touched off an avalanche of complaints as US WEST Communications, the Utah Public Service Commission, the Utah Division of Public Utilities and the Utah Committee of Consumer Services were inundated with nearly 3,000 calls protesting the move.
Stern said his company, which has a good reputation in Southern California where it is heavily involved with selling discounted long-distance service, was stunned by the Utah response. He said his company had bought a list of Utah telephone owners from an Orem-based telemarketing company with the understanding those on the list wanted to be changed to the discount service.
"We understood that those on the list had been contacted within the past six weeks," Stern said. "It now appears that many had been contacted as long as six months ago and it appears they had simply forgotten about the conversation with the telemarketing company."
While the number of complaints totaled only about 10 percent of those contacted, Stern said the response raised enough concern for the company to drop the planned move into the Utah market.
"The letter was simply intended to verify that the people wanted to make the change they had agreed to with the telemarketing firm," Stern said. "I think if we had it to do over again, we would have sent a smaller number of letters to test the market first."
Stern said his biggest concern is that his company's reputation was damaged by the controversy. "This was not some kind of scam, we are a very reputable company that is very concerned with customer satisfaction."
Stern said it is not uncommon in the long-distance industry for telemarketing to be used to develop new customer sources. He said this was his company's first use of an independent telemarketing company, however. He said Cyberlink has used its own telemarketing group to identify new customers in the past.
Cyberlink has had a number of business customers in Utah for several years and those customers will continue to be serviced, Stern said. The company will re-evaluate on an individual basis those positive responses it receives from those receiving the letters.
While the company has incurred some expense through the mass mailing, Stern said he does not expect any litigation to develop from the matter. "Our contract was essentially to pay them (the telemarketing company) a commission for each new customer. If there are no customers, there will be no commissions."