CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed Senate Bill 2731, preventing telecommunications companies from selling fraudulent calling cards. Until now, Illinois lacked the authority to regulate the hundreds of types of calling cards sold in Illinois. By regulating the sale of prepaid calling cards, the bill aims to protect consumers from fraudulent, incomplete or misleading disclosure of prepaid calling rates, terms and conditions. Consumers have complained that fraudulent prepaid cards have failed to provide the number of minutes advertised and in some cases have charged exorbitant fees. Immigrant and Latino communities have been most affected by unscrupulous prepaid calling card vendors.
"Consumers deserve to know what they are buying and they must be able to trust the product will work,” Gov. Blagojevich said. "Fraudulent phone cards cheat consumers out of their hard-earned dollars, while denying them the opportunity to speak to their family and friends. This law will better protect Illinoisans from fraud and deception, especially our immigrant and Latino communities.”
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Martin Sandoval (D-Cicero) and Rep. William Delgado (D-Chicago), seeks to curb the number of fraudulent prepaid calling cards by requiring calling card providers to be certified by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). This certification must be obtained before calling cards providers can sell calling cards to a distributor, reseller or retailer. To sell prepaid calling services to consumers, retailers must obtain proof that the ICC has certified the calling card provider. Retailers must produce the proof of certification with 48 hours of a request.
"Individuals who purchase these calling cards should know up front what they are getting," said Sen. Sandoval. "Too often, I hear stories of people who have saved their money to purchase calling cards in order to contact loved ones, only to be cheated out of time and money. This law
will give consumers greater peace of mind."
Under the new law, the ICC may also establish service performance standards that prepaid calling providers must adhere to. In addition, this bill gives the Attorney General explicit authority to pursue providers, resellers or retailers who violate the law.
[Quote from Sen. Martin A. Sandoval (D-12) and/ or Rep. William Delgado (D-3), main sponsors)
Under the new law, prepaid calling service providers and resellers must disclose the following:
On the Card:
- The full name of the provider
- The toll-free customer service number
- A toll-free access number or one that is local to the retailer.
- A refund policy or a statement that the refund policy is located on the packaging material.
On the Packaging Material:
- The value of the card in minutes or domestic rate per minute of the card
- All surcharges and fees applicable to the use of the domestic service
- All applicable rates for international preferred destinations
- All applicable surcharges and fees for international preferred destinations
- A disclosure statement of all rates, surcharges, and fees applicable to international calls are available through a toll-free number and a statement disclosing whether international rates vary from domestic rates.
- The expiration policy
Through the Customer Service Telephone Number:
- The ICC certificate number
- All applicable rates, terms, surcharges and fees for domestic and international calls
- All information necessary to determine the cost of a given call
- The balance of use in the consumer’s account
- The expiration date or period.
The new law is effective on July 1, 2005.