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'Fat finger' dialing targeted

NEW YORK (Dow Jones/AP) — AT&T Corp. has filed a lawsuit contending that Sprint Corp. and two other rival telephone companies are stealing calls from AT&T toll-free operators through what is called a "fat-finger dialing" scheme.

In the suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday, AT&T says Sprint, along with One Call Communications and ASC Telecom, has dozens of toll-free numbers that are similar to AT&T's operator-assisted service, "1-800 CALL ATT."

A caller who misdials when calling the AT&T number to place a collect call, for example dialing 1-800-CELL-ATT, will be connected to ASC Telecom operators, which charges rates much higher than AT&T, according to the suit.

"Consumers who inadvertently dial one of defendants' numbers have been deceived into using defendants' services, causing AT&T to lose business which was intended for it," the complaint says.

AT&T is asking the court to compel Sprint, One Call, and ASC to surrender numbers such as 1-800 CAAL ATT and 1-800 CALT ATT. The suit also seeks unspecified monetary damages.

Representatives for Sprint, One Call and ASC couldn't be reached for comment late Wednesday.

AT&T also notes in its complaint that the alleged scheme, which has been labeled as "fat-finger dialing" by the Federal Communications Commission, prompted the agency to fine One Call and ASC millions of dollars last year.