Court overturns phone rate decision

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned decisions by the Public Service Commission that had allowed three large phone companies to raise rates for in-state long distance service.

In 2001 and 2002, AT&T Corp., Sprint Corp. and WorldCom, now known as MCI Inc., petitioned the commission, which regulates Missouri utilities, to increase their rates by about $2 for in-state long-distance service.

The companies said the higher rates would help offset access fees they must pay local carriers to place in-state long-distance calls.

AT&T said at the time that Missouri access fees were among the highest in the country.

The commission granted the higher rates. But the Office of Public Counsel appealed the decision, saying the commission did not consider whether the rate increase was "just and reasonable" and did not justify why the higher rates would be charged only to some customers.

The appeals court's ruling Tuesday said the commission did not clearly spell out its reasoning, as required by state law, for granting the higher rates.

"The orders simply contain a general discussion of the parties' positions and a brief explanation of which position the commission deemed correct. This does not satisfy the requirement that the Commission articulate the basic facts from which it reached its decision," the appeals court said.

The court said the commission could reopen the case and hear new evidence or simply rewrite the decisions to include details on how they were reached.

The commission was still reviewing the ruling Tuesday and weighing its options, including a possible appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court, spokesman Kevin Kelly said.

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