Madigan has problem with calling cards

By Bryan Cohen | Nov 4, 2011


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced lawsuits on Thursday against two companies for allegedly marketing prepaid calling cards to consumers that offered up to 50 percent fewer minutes than advertised.

Nobel Tel LLC, based in California, and NTI Inc., a Chicago company, marketed the cards, which were allegedly riddled with hidden usage fees. The cards were allegedly aimed at immigrant communities seeking to make international calls. Madigan filed suit against the companies in Cook County Circuit Court.

"Consumers need to read the fine print on prepaid calling cards," Madigan said. "Their advertising is extremely misleading about the actual number of minutes offered, and they're loaded with hidden fees that make their value questionable at best."

The lawsuit against NTI alleges that the company's prepaid cards provided an average of 50 percent fewer actual minutes of talk time than the total advertised time. The company sells cards at neighborhood telecommunication and convenience stores in the Chicago area.

Nobel Tel, based in Carlsbad, Calif., markets, sells and distributes prepaid cards that are riddled with hidden fees - from daily usage charges to hang-up fees - to Illinois retailers, Madigan says. Madigan alleges that some cards misrepresented the actual amount of call time available. The cards' packaging referred to "units" of time as opposed to actual minutes, where one "unit" represented only a portion of a minute of talk time internationally, she claims.

Madigan is asking the court to prohibit the companies from selling, distributing, manufacturing or marketing prepaid calling cards in Illinois. She is also seeking restitution for affected consumers and civil penalties for the allegations laid out in each of the complaints.

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