Calif. AG wins settlement over pre-paid calling cards

Chris Rizo May 8, 2009, 3:48pm

Jerry Brown (D)

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline)-California Attorney General Jerry Brown won a court order Friday, barring Los Angeles-based Total Call International, Inc. from charging "hidden and deceptive" fees for its pre-paid calling cards.

The company was accused of advertising low per-minute base rates on its calling cards and then charging consumers undisclosed add-on fees and surcharges when consumers used their cards.

The extra charges, Brown said, significantly reduced the amount of calling time available.

"Total Call International has raked in profits by advertising bargain basement prices then charging exorbitant fees when their cards were used." Brown said. "Today's agreement safeguards California's consumers by forcing this company to fully disclose hidden and deceptive calling card fees."

In a settlement filed in San Francisco County Superior Court, the company has agreed to pay a $300,000 civil penalty, the attorney general's office said. In settling the case, Total Call has not admitted to any wrongdoing.

Brown and the California Public Utilities Commission began an investigation against Total Call. Officials said the company violated a California law that requires disclosure of pre-paid calling card fees. Officials also said the company violated the state's false advertising and unfair competition laws.

The stipulated judgment reached Friday requires Total call to, among other things, disclose all fees, add-ons, and surcharges in a "clear and conspicuous manner "and include those charges in the marketing of its per-minute rate.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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