First Union Corp.'s acquisition of CoreStates Financial Corp. ran into a customer relations pothole last week when a mass mailing erroneously told many customers their accounts had been sold.

According to local news reports, the snafu occurred when First Union tried to send letters to customers whose accounts are being sold to Sovereign Bancorp of Wyomissing, Pa.

Sovereign has agreed to pay $318 million for $2.3 billion of deposits and $800 million in commercial and consumer loans. But a mix-up caused many letters to go to customers whose accounts are not being sold.

The confusion was compounded because the letters listed only Sovereign's phone number as a resource. Phone lines to Sovereign were jammed with more than 4,000 calls.

A First Union spokeswoman said letters were being sent Friday to notify the customers of the error. She would not say how many customers were affected, but said most of them were retail accounts.- Carey Gillam

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