WASHINGTON (AP) - Long-distance giant WorldCom will pay $3.5 million as part of an agreement with federal regulators to settle charges that it switched customers' telephone carriers without permission, the company said Tuesday.
The settlement with the nation's second largest long-distance carrier resolves an inquiry by the Federal Communications Commission into consumer complaints about the practice known as ``slamming'' - changing customer's carriers without their permission.
The Worlcom settlement represents one of the largest enforcement actions in the FCC's history.
The WorldCom complaint under investigation included allegations of deceptive action by sales representatives calling consumers to pitch their services.
Bernard J. Ebbers, WorldCom's chief executive officer and president, said the incidents highlighted by the FCC were perpetrated by a few sales employees who were terminated.
``Our zero tolerance policy for slamming is very real and we will take whatever steps necessary to prevent slamming from occurring,'' Ebbers said.
The company is making a voluntary payment of $3.5 million, which will go to the Treasury.
WorldCom also has agreed to bolster its consumer protection practices. It recently created a new 200-member team to focus on customer service issues.