Educational Consumer Tips

Long Distance Phone Service

Author: Better Business Bureau

Since the de-regulation of the industry, many new and existing companies throughout the country are marketing "discounted" phone services. Third party telecommunications companies use the local telephone company billing system to invoice their charges. While the local phone company is not responsible for these charges, they will intervene if the consumer is unable to work it out with the offending company.
An illegal practice known as "slamming" occurs when an unscrupulous company switches a consumer's telephone service provider without the consumer's knowledge or authorization. To determine the name of your current provider call 1-700-555-4141.
To prevent your phone service from being "slammed", consumers should contact their local phone company and request a PIC FREEZE which prevents anyone but the consumer from authorizing a switch to another company.
In 1998 a new practice surfaced which is called "cramming" by those in the industry. "Cramming" occurs when unauthorized charges appear on a consumer's bill. Consumers may see charges for personal toll free numbers, prepaid phone cards, hidden monthly membership fees for psychic hotlines and other 900 number services, magazine subscriptions and more.
Consumers can protect themselves from these practices by examining their phone bills each month to be sure that all of the charges are correct and that there are not suspicious changes. You should also be very careful if you enter a drawing at the local street fair, mall, expo and through the mail to read ALL of the fine print on the "entry form". These types of solicitations have been found to contain language which authorizes unscrupulous companies to switch your long distance carrier, or to charge your telephone bill for magazines or other services. Consumers should also be wary of providing their name, birth date or any other identifying information to telemarketers who are selling telecommunications services. Unscrupulous companies will use that information to prove that you asked them to add the charges, even if you did not! In Pacific Bell's territory, if you have been victimized, first try contacting the offending company to resolve the problem. If you are unsuccessful, call Pacific Bell at 1-800-310-2355. Business Customers call 1-800-750-2355.