Bill McCollum (R)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum says a recent settlement with nine calling card companies means “industry-wide reforms.”
The attorney general’s office said it began an investigation into the marketing practices of phone calling card companies in July 2007, after receiving more than 200 complaints about industry practices that resulted in consumers being able to use fewer minutes on the cards than advertised.
Complaints included claims that cards contained hidden fees or charges that were not adequately disclosed, such as “hang-up fees,” maintenance fees and destination surcharges.
Some of the cards rounded up call lengths to the next three- or four-minute increments, the AG’s office said. In such instances, a one-minute call would result in four minutes being deducted from the time remaining on the card.
The settlement reached with nine companies requires them to, among other things, make disclosures in the same language that the advertisements are printed, and they must disclose the exact number of minutes available on the card and the card’s expiration date.
Additionally, calls will only be rounded up to the nearest minute.
The settlement applies only to sales within Florida and cards sold over the Internet. The companies have 45 days to make the required changes to their print advertising.
Signatories to the agreement are: IDT America, Inc.; Union Telecom Alliance; Total Call International, Inc.; Blackstone Calling Card, Inc.; CVT Prepaid Solutions, Inc.; Dollar Phone Enterprise, Inc.; STi Prepaid, LLC; Alternatel, Inc.; and Cristel Telecommunications, LLC.
McCollum said all the companies had agreed “to cease all deceptive advertising, provide 100 percent of the minutes advertised, and submit to three years of auditing” by the attorney general’s office.
The companies agreed also to reimburse the attorney general’s office more than $1 million for the costs of its investigation and to provide money for “future investigative efforts.”