Attorney General: 29 Attorneys General Urge FTC to Adopt Tougher Pay-Per-Call Regulations

Connecticut Attorney General's Office

News Release

29 Attorneys General Urge FTC to Adopt Tougher Pay-Per-Call Regulations

May 12, 1997

When a Norwich, Conn., woman saw an advertisement for a job to earn nearly $10 per hour, she called the New York telephone number in the advertisement, only to be referred to a number that began with area code 809.

The call to the 809 area code, however, ended up connecting her to the Caribbean and costing her more than $40.

Calls to the 809 area code and other international area codes are costing consumers as they are unknowingly getting connected to "pay-per-call" services that operate like 900 numbers -- except consumers often are given no notice of the charges.

Because of a growing number of complaints, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today led a group of 29 states in urging the Federal Trade Commission to toughen regulations regarding pay-per-call services.

"Too often, consumers are opening their phone bills and finding exorbitant charges for calls they never knew were being charged as a pay-per-call service," said, Blumenthal, who chairs a national attorneys general group on telecommunications issues.

"Most consumers know that they face special charges for calls to 900 numbers. But the pay-per-call services have expanded to international numbers, toll free numbers and other avenues that have left many consumers with no disclosure, large telephone bills and little recourse."

While consumers generally know that they will incur charges when they call 900 numbers, they do not know that calls to some unfamiliar, international area codes could lead to pay-per-call charges.

In addition, the attorneys general said there is a need for greater disclosure when calls to an 800 number lead to charges.

The attorneys general said that consumers have complained about the following practices:

  • False and misleading advertising and marketing tactics that conceal charges, including classified advertisements that urge people to call an international, pay-per-call telephone number that is not disclosed as such.
  • Fraudulent schemes to trick people into responding to messages left on answering machines, with return calls to pay-per-call services.
  • Unordered "membership" or "subscription" charges for pay-per-call services.

The Attorneys General are urging the FTC to require disclosure of pay-per-call charges when advertisements solicit calls to a pay-per-call number, including international numbers. In addition, those disclosures should be required if calls to an 800 number then refers a consumer to a pay-per-call service number.

The comments also urge the FTC to require that if consumers are going to be billed for calls to an 800 number based on a pre-subscription contract, that a copy of that contract must be sent to the consumer.

The following states joined Connecticut in the comments to the FTC: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.