CHICAGO -- Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn joins Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, Sen. Martin Sandoval, Rep. William Delgado, ICC Commissioner Lula Ford and Consul General of Mexico Jose Castro to celebrate the passage of a consumer protection bill that will 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 is a much needed consumer protection law that will 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 law requires certification of prepaid calling card providers by the Illinois Commerce Commission. This certification will ensure the applicant has sufficient technical, financial and managerial resources to provide calling services. The law 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 new law now 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."
Illinois is now the 11th state to enact legislation to stop the prepaid calling card industry from fraudulent and misleading practices. Other states with similar legislation are Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Texas and Washington. Ed Maldonado, an attorney from Florida, provided consultation in the writing of the Phone Card Fraud Act.
The bill (Senate Bill 2731) passed out of the Senate 55-0 on May 26, and unanimously passed the House on June 24. Governor Rod Blagojevich will sign the bill into law Monday.