Senator Hutchison Cosponsors Calling Card Legislation to Help Consumers

Bill Would Require Calling Card Operators to Make Fees and Terms Easier to Understand

September 10, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today signed on as a cosponsor to legislation that would assist consumers with pre-paid calling cards and ensure that fees and terms are easier to understand.  The bill, S. 2998, would require pre-paid calling card providers and distributors to disclose the number of minutes/units on the card, the dollar value of the card, and international per-minute rates. The measure would require disclosures to be in English or if another language is predominantly used on the card or its packaging, for the disclosures to be printed in that language.  The legislation would place violations under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and allow states to bring civil actions.

“I am pleased to cosponsor this important legislation,” said Senator Hutchison.  “We have had trouble with this issue in my home state of Texas, and our Attorney General has even filed a lawsuit against a company that misrepresented the number of minutes available. In particular, this practice preys on the elderly and people who do not speak English.  We must take action and ensure that all Americans buying a calling card can rely on it.”

Most pre-paid calling cards display a toll-free access telephone number and a personal identification number (PIN).  The issuers of the cards use a PIN to track a customer’s usage and how much time remains on a particular card in either minutes or units.  To make a phone call, a customer dials the access number, enters a PIN, and at the voice prompt, enters the phone number the customer wants to reach.  Typically, a computer announces how much time, or units, the customer has left on a card.  Recent court cases allege that certain calling card companies misrepresented the number of calling card minutes allocated to consumers, failed to disclose that consumers’ cards will be charged whether or not the call goes through, and charged hidden fees.

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