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Call Kurtis: What You’re Owed When Service Goes Out

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Eight-time Emmy Award winner Kurtis Ming is CBS13's consumer...
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Where Kay and Larry Pealer live in Grass Valley, a landline phone can be a lifeline when an emergency strikes.

But when their phone didn’t work when they had a medical emergency, they called Kurtis to investigate.

“It could have been a lot worse,” Larry said, recounting the emergency that sent him to the hospital in April.

He’s fine now, but when Kay went to dial 9-1-1 that day their AT&T landline was down again, forcing her to drive him to the hospital.

“At first it was just inconvenience,” Kay said. “When we started having medical emergencies around here, then it became real personal.”

Since September, the Pealers have gone 45 days without phone service at their peaceful country home — sometimes for six days at a time — cutting them off from the rest of the world, they said.

“It’s a hollow feeling,” Larry said of the disconnect. “You feel like, ‘Am I in this by myself?'”

AT&T has never given an explanation, they said.

When services go out, whether it’s a landline, cell phone or TV service — what do the companies owe customers?

“People really get upset and deserve to get a refund,” said Richard Holober of the Consumer Federation of California.

He said customers should demand their bills be reduced for the days they didn’t have service.

“Repeated outages are not supposed to happen,” he said.

AT&T told CBS13 the outages were due to copper thieves.

“This could put people’s safety at risk,” said John Britton, a spokesman for AT&T.

He said, however, AT&T is generally fixing problems quickly.

“For the most part, we’re getting service back within one day,” he said. “If [customers] have trouble, call us and we’ll issue a credit.”

AT&T offered the Pealers $100 credit on their bill, which covers the outages, they said.

Not knowing if they’ll have another emergency, they just want a dial tone when they pick up the phone.

“If it happens again,” Kay said, “what are you gonna do but complain again?

With more people going wireless, Holober said he thinks communications companies are shifting resources from maintaining the old landlines. Most of the effort is now spent taking care of wireless problems, he said.

He said he expected to see more and more landline outages in the future.

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