Making the Right Connection With Prepaid Calling Cards
Consumers who buy prepaid telephone calling cards in California have the right to get information about the service and rates before they buy the card, and are entitled to good service and answers to their questions after they buy. Here at a glance are things consumers have a right to know about prepaid calling cards.
ADVERTISEMENTS. If the company makes any claims about the rate (such as "only 5 cents a minute") or the amount of service ("100 minutes"), the advertisement must tell you if the rates or service amounts are limited to calls to certain places. These ads also must tell you if additional charges or fees apply to the advertised offer.
Consumers who have a complaint about a business they believe is not complying with the state phone card law (Business and Professions Code section 17538.9) should contact the Attorney General's Public Inquiry Unit at (800) 952-5225, or use the on-line complaint form.
ON THE CARD. The card itself must identify the company and its toll-free customer service number. If the card requires an authorization code or toll-free access number to be used, those must be printed on the card. If there is an expiration period of less than one year, that policy or date must also be on the card.
WITH THE CARD/AT THE STORE. The card or its packaging must fully disclose the following information and the information must also be on display where the cards are sold:
LANGUAGES. If a language other than English is used in the advertisements or for the dialing instructions, all the information described above must be available in that language where the cards are sold and on the packaging.
- The value of the card, and all fees, surcharges and access fees for calls within the US.
- For international calls, if all rates and charges are not listed, then the company's highest rates and charges must be shown.
- Minimum per-call charges. (For example, calls less than 10 minutes will be charged for 10 minutes.)
- "Rounding up" times. That is, it must tell you how many more minutes or seconds will be charged. For example, on a call 1 minute and 1 second long, will the time you are charged for be rounded up to 2 minutes, 1 minute and 1 second, 1 minute and 6 seconds, or something else.
- Policies for refunds, recharges and expiration.
- A toll-free customer service number.
CUSTOMER SERVICE. Customers must have access to a 24-hour toll-free customer service number that will take and respond to complaints. Service must be available in all of the languages the company uses in its advertisements. Customers must be able to call the customer service number about problems with the card or to find out about the rates, fees, refund and expiration policies. The company must may not charge for the calls to customer service.
REFUNDS. If the customer asks for a refund because of unreasonable problems connecting calls, such as noise on the line, or disconnections, the company must promptly refund at least the amount remaining on the card.
PAYPHONE CHARGES. If there is a surcharge for using the card at a payphone, the company does not have to list that charge with the card if the charge is announced at the start of the call, and the consumer is given time to hang up without a fee.
Complaints about the quality of telephone service, such as poor connections or dropped calls, should contact the California Public Utilities Commission at (800) 649-7570 or use the PUC on-line complaint form.
Consumers experiencing service problems with calls to other states or countries should contact the Federal Communications Commission
at (888) 225-5322 or use the FCC on-line complaint form.