Some hide user fees and cheat on minutes used
Wallingford, CT - September 29, 2009 – Some prepaid telephone long distance cards don’t deliver as promised, according to Better Business Bureau.
Prepaid phone cards are convenient for people who don’t have a long distance plan with their telephone carrier, travelers and students. They are widely available in stores, newsstands and online, and while some telephone card companies offer competitive discounts on long distance calls, others whittle away at the promised hundreds of minutes with exorbitant fees and service charges.
A 2007 survey by the Hispanic Institute found that prepaid telephone cards delivered only 60 percent of the minutes promised, and that fraudulent cards were swindling people out of about $1 million every day.
As part of a national crackdown on the prepaid phone card industry, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gone after several companies for lying about the number of minutes available on their cards and failing to disclose the cost of maintenance fees. In one example, a card from Diamond Phone Card, Inc. claimed to deliver 400 minutes to Mexico, but only provided 160 minutes of calling time after fees and service charges were assessed.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Web site is replete with many other common complaints against phone card companies, including:
service or access numbers that are always busy or don’t work;
card issuers that go out of business, leaving people with useless cards;
cards that charge you even when your call does not go through;
poor quality connections;
cards that expire without the purchaser’s knowledge;
Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti, cautions consumers to do their homework to make sure they get their money’s worth from long distance cards.
“Not all phone cards are a good deal and some prepaid card companies can be deceitful. Consumers however, can avoid these problems by understanding the types of complaints associated with prepaid cards and watching out for the warning signs.”
BBB offers the following advice to avoid getting cheated when buying a prepaid long distance phone card:
- Find out the rates for both domestic and international calls, and be wary if those rates are not printed on the card or posted on associated advertising or displays.
- Compare rates. A very low rate could mean the card may not deliver the promised number of minutes.
- Read disclosures about expiration dates, surcharges and any maintenance fees that might vary depending on where you are calling from.
- Don’t buy a card if its personal identification number (PIN) is exposed or if its packaging has been tampered with. These cards may have had their PINS stolen and may have been used before you bought the card.
- Check to see whether the card has an expiration date and toll-free customer service number.
- Friends and family may be able to recommend cards they like and,
- Always check out the phone card company at www.bbb.org to make sure it has a good reputation for satisfying customers.
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