Phone bill snafu costly to sailors
NAPLES, Italy — Gricignano residents undercharged for six months of phone use got fatter bills last month.
Because of a software glitch, about 800 residents were charged for calls only every other day from August through March, said Lt. Michael L. Harris, base communications officer for Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station.
A supplemental bill in mid-April told users they have to pay the unbilled tolls by June 30 or their transfer date, whichever is earlier.
If users can’t settle the bill by then, they can call a special line, DSN 626-2455, to set up a payment schedule.
Harris said a few dozen people have called.
“Some bills were pretty steep, especially for the junior people,” he said. The highest was more than $1,000.
Overall, residents were undercharged $135,000 by the Navy for off-base calls. When Navy phones connect to the Telecom Italia network, the company charges NCTAMS, which passes the charges on to the customer who made the call.
Petty Officer 1st Class Chris Austin, undercharged about $98, said he thought his bills were a little low. But he and other residents say they shouldn’t have to pay for the mistake.
“I’ve got two kids, that money could go elsewhere,” said Austin, 30, a staff sonar technician for Submarine Group 8 from Burnsville, Miss. “I don’t feel like I should be responsible for their mess-up. They should just eat it.”
Harris said the tolls are for using Telecom Italia’s public network. The off-base charges, which are itemized in the supplemental bill, include international, local and cell phone calls.
“[The residents] still incurred the toll charges. I still have to pay Telecom Italia,” said Harris, 40. “It’s not like the government is making any money off this deal.”
Harris also lives at the Support Site and was undercharged about $200.
“For six months of phone calls that isn’t that bad,” he said. “If people have problems, please call. I apologize for the inconvenience.”