Pre-paid telephone cards may not deliver services as advertised to consumers, according to Florida’s Public Service Commission (PSC).
Investigators from the PSC conducted random service quality checks this fall on calling cards issued by 10 firms in Florida. During these checks, PSC investigators found several cards that did not function as advertised.
According to PSC rules, the card provider must be registered with the PSC if the card can be used for intrastate calls. The PSC must also be notified of all charges, surcharges, and fees for the prepaid card, and this information must also be disclosed to the customer at the point of purchase.
Problems with the prepaid cards included:
· The company was not registered with the PSC.
· The card was not charging for calls as expected.
· The addition of unadvertised surcharges and limitations was not disclosed.
· The access number for the card’s network was continuously busy.
· The card advertised no connection fees, yet charged disconnection fees, misleading consumers.
· The advertised per minute rate on the card only applied to one call. Additional calls were charged at a much higher rate.
· The advertised rate only applied to limited areas, which was not disclosed.
· The card did not work at all.
If a violation is detected, the PSC sends a letter to the card issuer directing the company to come into compliance and notifying them that fines may be assessed. Interstate and international results from the investigation are being shared with Florida’s Attorney General to determine if any additional investigation of consumer fraud is warranted.
If a consumer detects a violation of a card’s disclosed fees or any additional problems, they should call the PSC at 800-342-3552 to register a complaint. The consumer may also take the card back to the point of purchase and attempt to obtain a refund.
If consumers are considering using a pre-paid telephone card, here are a few tips:
· Read the fine print before buying a card.
· Be sure you understand exactly what the calls will cost, including the per minute charge and any connection or disconnection fees.
· Check the card’s expiration date.
· Look for a toll-free customer contact service number to call if you have problems using the card.
· Make sure the card can be used to your calling destination. Fees may vary based on calling destination.
For more tips on using pre-paid phone cards, brochures in English and Spanish are available on the PSC’s Web site at http://www.floridapsc.com/. Consumers can also call the PSC’s consumer line at 800-342-3552 (Spanish agents available).
The PSC is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive their electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater services in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. The PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in the areas of rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitors safety, reliability, and service.
For additional information, visit http://www.floridapsc.com/.