The American PrePaid Phonecall Association (APPPA) has expressed concern over the impact on consumers of a ruling by Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) regarding pay phone charges to prepaid service providers. However, FCC is still considering whether to uphold the Bureau ruling, which gives pay phone providers the right to bill prepaid service providers for calls made from their phones, even if required identification information was not passed to the prepaid provider.
APPPA is most concerned about this ruling because it could apply retroactively, even if the required signals were not received from the pay phone.
In a statement, Gene Retske, executive director of APPPA, said, "If this ruling is affirmed by the full Commission, the impact will be the greatest on those who can afford it the least." He added, "Prepaid providers will have to pay for calls long after their ability to appropriately charge the customer who made the call."
While the issue is mired in technical and legal language, Retske thinks that if it is affirmed, the ruling will have the net effect of limiting access to payphones by the least affluent consumers. "This ruling will disproportionately impact the very consumer who needs access to discounted, high value international long distance services," noted Retske.
Commenting on this ruling, the owner of one prepaid calling company, Ray Valme, of Dial World Communications said that the average payphone charge is about $0.99 per call when using a prepaid phone card. He said that carriers would then have to budget an additional amount for retroactive payphone charges and build them into their ongoing payphone fee.
"Because prepaid phone service is sold through merchants, today's $0.99 payphone fee could increase to as much as $1.39 on a $5 calling card that affects 28 percent of the value, on a $3 calling card. That is 46 percent of the value," asserted Valme.
APPPA said that it is continuing to work with the FCC to resolve this issue in favor of the industry and its consumers.
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