Tele-Publishing International on MCI’s 900 Service

Looking at non-900 options


Tele-Publishing International today sent an e-mail letter to its client base of roughly 700 newspapers, to explain the ramifications of the recent WorldCom bankruptcy and to reassure its clients of the continued growth and future success of voice personals.

WorldCom owns 900-number provider MCI, which is the only national carrier that continues to bill and collect for 900 traffic. MCI is thus the carrier used by all voice personals providers either directly or through bureaus that work with MCI on behalf of 900 number service providers. On July 21 WorldCom filed for Chapter 11, giving it protection from its creditors in an effort to reorganize its business. It was the largest bankruptcy filing in history.

The immediate effect of the bankruptcy filing was the freezing of WorldCom’s assets to protect them from creditors. This occurred prior to MCI delivering 900 revenues for the calendar month of May to the bureaus that manage these products on MCI’s behalf. All revenues up to the filing date of July 21 have thus been frozen by the courts.

Tele-Publishing reports that the position relayed to them by senior MCI officials and lawyers is that the frozen 900 revenues are in a separate class from those being sought by creditors in the bankruptcy. MCI’s senior management believes that the funds are the property of the bureaus and that MCI is in effect acting only as the agent in collecting those funds.

The largest of the bureaus, Champion (from whom TPI contracts for its 900 services), will be appearing in court on the 20th of August to put forth the position stated above, in an attempt to quickly regain those assets and to remove them from the bankruptcy process.

Also at issue is the status of the 900 industry in the post-petition stage, which commenced July 22. TPI reports that it has received strong assurances that a clean slate will be provided by MCI going forward, meaning a resumption of the regular flow of funds for call traffic occurring from July 22 onwards. Further, MCI has assured Tele-Publishing that the 900 business is a high profit margin division for MCI and it is highly unlikely that it would be terminated during any reorganization.

“We’re cautiously optimistic on both scores at this stage,” said David Dinnage, president of Tele-Publishing International. “It’s a fluid situation and we’ll know many more details, which we will obviously pass along to our clients, over the next week or two.”

In addition to working closely with MCI on a resolution, Tele-Publishing has been experimenting with several, very successful, non-900 response methods for their personals services and will provide a variety of options for their clients within the week. “We already offer a direct access credit card feature using toll free numbers which accounts for 50 percent of the member minutes on our exclusive TPI Connect Mobile Dating feature” said Dinnage, “and we have some additional modifications and promotions with all of our integrated products that we will be launching shortly.”

Tele-Publishing recommends that if its clients have any questions to please contact their client development manager directly for the most up-to-date information available.