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Study: 7 of 8 firms charge too much on long distance

Seven out of eight major long-distance phone companies overcharge customers for the length of time they talk on the telephone, and six are charging for unconnected calls, a study concluded Sunday.

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The report by Consumer's Checkbook, based on 2,000 calls made through eight long-distance phone companies, found that Western Union's ''Metrofone'' billed for 32 percent of ''no answers,'' ''busys,'' and other uncompleted calls, and that International Telephone & Telegraph's ''Niteline'' service did not charge at all for calls lasting under 30 seconds.

The study shows that the way companies calculate the length and number of calls can affect customer bills more than variations in per-minute charges.

Consumer's Checkbook, a nonprofit organization that rates service companies, is based in San Francisco and Washington.

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