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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Toll Free!?

I was having breakfast with my parents this morning (my mom makes this incredible baked french toast). As we were chatting, Mom said "You know, I have an idea for your blog. Why don't you discuss ..."

"Toll-free" phone charges. This one is new to me.

My parents were having compatibility problems with the interface between my mom's printer and new computer. To solve it, they called both E-Systems and Xerox and spent quite a bit of time on the phone. When they got their phone bill recently, they were surprised to find an additional $40-$60 worth of charges to numbers they didn't recognize. They immediately called the phone company to tell them there was a mistake.

No, the phone company told them. It was no mistake. Even though Mom and Dad had called E-Systems and Xerox on toll-free numbers, they were transferred to non toll-free numbers and the clock started ticking. Although my parents thought it was surely illegal, they were assured by the phone company that what those companies did was perfectly legal. They were stuck with a higher bill than they had expected, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Mom and Dad can handle it, though they're not happy about it. But what about the people who are counting every penny? Shouldn't these companies inform their customers that they're transferring them to another line that the customer will have to pay charges for? The phone company tells my parents that these companies do not have to inform the customer of this.

I've never heard of this before. It makes you wonder how they define "toll-free" any more.

21 comments:

SmileDragon said...

I've never heard of such a thing! Wow. I think that the company should absolutely have to inform the customer! I know that some months are very very tight for me and the added expense would really cause problems.

Tabasamu said...

I hadn't heard of it either, Saur. I would think that when word gets out, there will be a lot of angry people out there. But, does everyone look at their phone bill? I know that *I* don't always do more than just glance at it. I'll be checking THIS month though...

-TC

SmileDragon said...

Oh wow, I didn't think about that! Checking my bill. I just know roundabout how much it should be each month, give or take $15-$20 for my long distance charges.

Dan said...

Yeah, that's weird.

mal said...

Wow, you would think it would fall under the rules forbidding "bait and switch" tactics. At no time were they told they were going "toll"

Phone company of course is no help. They are more than happy to collect there cut as the charges pass thru their system. They were certainly less than helpful to the folks that were caught in overseas "linejackings" a few years ago

We are the phone company, here to help you. Uh huh, yup, anyone seen the Tooth Fairey around here?

bananarama said...

weird! I never thought that something like that could happen!

Eddo said...

Oh, I would have been LIVID!

But I don't have a home phone anymore just a cell and work pays for it so I can't complain.

It does somehow seem illegal and fraudulent to have someone dial a "toll-free" number and then to charge them.

GodlessMom said...

Thanks for the information on this. The next time I find myself in that position I will definitely ask if the number I'm being transfered to is a toll number. It does seem really slimey.

Always questioning said...

Saur - Did they call the Public Service Commission to complain?

Fred said...

I've never heard of that before. I'd be on the phone with the company (using a different number, of course) and demand my money back.

Then I'd call Channel 8. They love this kind of stuff.

dddragon said...

Ditto on everyone else's comments. My DH regularly scans the phone numbers to check the numbers, but we've not seen this issue before. We'll have to look for it.

Senor Caiman said...

When people use to try to take advantage of my mom, I use to nail them to a wall.

Saur, I'm not happy with your picture, sure there is no underarm flab but your skin is so pale. Keep looking.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mr. Gator, yes, I intend to look into it myself on Monday. So you don't like the pic, huh? I'll keep hunting about. I did like the green (saurkraut) but no one really like the real psychedelic pic of me.

Always Questioning, they didn't, but it's a good idea.

Fred, also a good idea. Thanks! I always believe in raising a fuss when possible. I don't know if my folks want that, though. I'll encourage them to do it though!

Dddragon, Eddo, Godless Mom, Bananarama, Dan, Smilesalot, & TC, it is infuriating, isn't it? This has to be illegal.

Mallory, what's linejacking?

AP3 said...

Geez, THAT's scary and horrible! Good grief.

mal said...

Saur, linejacking was the con that was going on for a time where a con artist would call a number, claim to be from the phone company running a test and needed the homeowner to enter a code and hang up. At that point the con artist had control of the phone line and could do what they wanted including hitting over seas 900 numbers and running up charges in the thousands

Bill R said...

Saur, I sincerely doubt the legality of this operation, unless the customer is advised at the time of transfer that toll charges will be assessed. The PUC (Public Utilities Commission) has jurisdiction over these complaints. The threat of a class action can also be wonderously effective. There are only too many hungry plaintiff lawyers who would salivate over a claim like this.

Good luck!

actonbell said...

This certainly doesn't SOUND legal, but if it is, it's something to rock the boat about! Thanks for this post! In the future, I guess we all need to actually ask the person on the other end of the line what the rules are! Good grief.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mallory, Ahh, now I recall what you're talking about. Thanks!

Bill, I appreciate it. I'll call the PUC on Monday.

Acton Bell, you're right. But those conversations will get confusing too, because I can just see us having to ask each and every person we're transferred to...

Gunner said...

That is news to me. Somehow it does not sound right, but the part were they blame the owner of the phone does.

tshsmom said...

This is a common practice in the help-wanted section of most newspapers. People desperate for a job dial an 800 number and are quickly transferred to some pre-recorded hype. A friend payed $100 for this "bait and switch".

Saur♥Kraut said...

Tshsmom WOW. Thanks for sharing. How awful! Talk about preying on people...