Prison Call Solutions locks up consumers' money
Consumers across the country allege Austin company takes money for prison call services it can’t provide
March 25, 2014

 

  Columbus Oh - Austin, Texas-based Prison Call Solutions (PCS) advertises its service as a guaranteed way to save money for people who wish to talk to an inmate on the phone, but consumers report paying up front for services that don’t work.

Prison Call Solutions’ website prisoncallsolutions.com states the price of calls made from prison will be reduced by approximately 80 percent by using its service. The service sets up a relay system allowing prisoners to make calls using a local phone number, which PCS says will avoid long distance charges.

Some of the language on prisoncallsolutions.com website also is identical to the language on other companies’ websites that have offered similar discounted phone services. Those websites include US Jail Calls, Jail Call Services, US Prison Calls, Prison Call Services, and Prisoner Talk.

Consumers told Better Business Bureau  that they paid PCS in advance for services they were not able to use, either because the local number they received didn’t work, or because the prison facility would not contract with the company.

As of March 18, 2014, BBB has received 105 complaints from 25 states against Prison Call Solutions in the last three years. The company did not respond to 95 complaints and failed to resolve six complaints. The company has and F rating with BBB.

BBB files show a pattern of disputes from consumers stating they purchased prepaid call plans that did not work. Consumers also state the company will not return calls requesting refunds. The company did not respond to BBB attempts to address the pattern of complaints.

The business has also failed to respond to a BBB Advertising Review asking it to substantiate savings and guarantee claims made on its website.

“One Central Ohio woman, who used the service, said she had been told she could cancel for any reason, and get a refund. When she canceled, Prison Call Solutions denied her refund request.”    

A  Beaumont, Texas consumer paid upfront for service with Prison Call Solutions, but the company was not able to supply her with a usable number for the prison in Five Points, New York.

"I was supposed to get a local phone number, Prison Call Solutions said there was no number available there. They said they would send a refund, but they never did. I tried calling, but couldn't get anyone to help me."

A woman from Michigan paid Prison Call Solutions a total of more than $60 for a local number that would allow her to talk affordably with a friend who was incarcerated in the Ottowa County Jail in Ohio. The price included a $20 fee to expedite activation of the number. She said the numbers they gave her never worked and she was unable to get a refund.

“You pay to get the number. When the prisoner tries to call, the number is no good,” she said. “You call the company and tell them you can’t get through and they give you another number. That number doesn’t work either. They were supposed to refund me the $20 extra, but they never did. I tried for several months to get a refund for the original amount.”

For those who need a service to contact someone in prison, BBB offers the following advice:

  • Contact the facility first. Different facilities will contract with different communications services. Call to ensure the company you are considering will work with the facility in question.
  • Start with trust. View the company’s BBB Business Review at bbb.org for background information and complaint statistics.
  • Read the fine print. Before you pay for anything, make sure you understand the company’s refund policy and check the company’s complaint details at bbb.org to see if it follows its stated policy.  
  • Pay with a credit card. Under federal law, charges made on a credit card can be disputed up to 60 days after the purchase.
  • Get it in writing. Make sure any guarantees or discounts and their limitations are spelled out in a written contract. Do not accept a verbal promise from a sales representative.

To check the reliability of a company and find a trustworthy business check bbb.org.

About BBB

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2012, consumers turned to BBB 124 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4.5 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org.  The Central Ohio Better Business Bureau serves Columbus and 21 surrounding counties as the leader in advancing marketplace trust. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.