CHICAGO -- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn joined Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Senator Martin Sandoval, Representative William Delgado and Cook County Commissioner Roberto Maldonado to promote the passage of a consumer protection bill that would stop prepaid calling card providers from selling deceptive calling cards.
Lack of regulation has resulted in numerous artificial fees that include hidden charges, which reduce the value of the card without proper disclosure. These hidden charges can include disconnection fees, connection fees, operation fees, cellular phone fees and payphone fees.
“The Phone Card Fraud Act (Senate Bill 2731) is a good consumer protection bill that would safeguard users from being short-changed by the calling card industry,” Quinn said. “Consumers are entitled to know what they pay for, and when calling family members in other countries, every minute is important.”
The new legislation requires certification of prepaid calling card providers by the Illinois Commerce Commission. This certification ensures the applicant has sufficient technical, financial and managerial resources to provide calling services. The bill also requires calling card distributors to present a copy of the provider’s certification to partnering retailers to protect legitimate provider, distributor and retailer interests.
The calling card must display the full name of the calling card provider, toll-free customer service and network access numbers, the authorization code, and a disclosure as to where the remaining terms, refund policy and conditions can be found.
The package of the calling card must disclose the maximum charge per minute of prepaid calling service, all surcharges and fees, along with the expiration policy. The toll-free customer service number will disclose the Illinois Commerce Commission certificate number of the service provider, all applicable rates, terms, surcharges and fees, the balance of use in the consumer’s account and the applicable expiration date or period.
“Many fake phone cards advertise their service to entice consumers, and then do not provide the promised services,” Quinn said. “To protect everyday consumer interests from sham calling cards, this bill requires full disclosure of terms and conditions.”
"My office has found that some of the prepaid calling cards are not worth the plastic they are printed on," Madigan said. "If E.T. tried to phone home today, he would probably go broke after all the surcharges, fees, fake claims and outright lies associated with some of these cards. If you gamble with playing cards, you know you might lose. Buying a phone card should not be a gamble."
Madigan continued, "With a growing population of Latinos and others in Illinois, the market for these cards has grown very quickly. Unfortunately, so have opportunities for fraud."
The bill passed out of the Senate 55-0 on March 25, and is currently in the House. Senate cosponsors include Senators Barack Obama, Iris Martinez, Louis Viverito and Mattie Hunter. The bill also has gathered the support of the Illinois Commerce Commission and companies such as AT&T, MCI, SBC and Sprint.