Anchorage, AK - The Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) advises Alaskan consumers about the different prepaid calling card products sold in Alaska and what to look for to avoid any potential problems.

Read the fine print on the prepaid calling cards.  Look for disclosures about surcharges, monthly fees, per-call access in addition to the rate-per-minute or unit.  Most prepaid calling cards bill in one-minute increments, so if you make a call that last one minute and three seconds, you could be billed for a two-minute call. Other prepaid calling cards use “units” or subtract more than one “minute” from the card for each minute of calling.  For example, one calling card subtracts five minutes off the card for each one minute of intrastate calling in Alaska.   As in this example, some cards have higher rates depending upon whether the call is in-state, out-of-state, or international.

Make sure you know if the card has an expiration date:  Some prepaid cards will expire on a certain date or if the card is not used for a certain length of time.  In this regard, consumers should be aware that MCI recently filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) an application  to discontinue recharge capability on its “conference calling card” services effective June 1, 2008.  These conference calling cards are not the typical cards sold at Costco; however, the cards can also be used to make domestic or international long distance calls.  MCI also plans to discontinue all prepaid conference call services effective October 1, 2008.   If you are one of the holders of the 7,000 conference calling cards that MCI distributed in Alaska, and if the FCC approves MCI’s application, you may no longer be able to use any unused minutes for conference call service after October 1, 2008.

Know if the card  is rechargeable: Some prepaid calling cards must be thrown away once minutes are used or when the card expires, but others are rechargeable.  If the card is rechargeable, you will be able to add more minutes by contacting the carrier.

Using a prepaid card to make your call from a cellular phone:  Read the small print on the prepaid card and contact your cellular provider to confirm whether a call from your cellular phone using a prepaid calling card will incur any long distance or similar charges on your cellular phone bill.  

Check the payphone fee: The fee is an FCC-mandated fee that is collected to compensate payphone owners each time a payphone is used to complete a prepaid card call.  Virtually every prepaid calling card has a pay phone fee and the fees vary between companies.   

Consumer rights:   In Alaska, detailed information regarding the rate, term and condition of calling card service must be disclosed at the point of sale.   Carriers are required to refund the purchase price or provide a replacement prepaid calling card if the card does not work as represented, if proper disclosure requirements were not followed, or if directed by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska.    If you have a complaint regarding your card, you should first contact the calling card provider.  If you are not satisfied with their response, you may contact the RCA’s Consumer Protection Section for assistance.         

For further information, a copy of the Alaska regulations for prepaid calling card services  (3 AAC 52.377) may be downloaded in the RCA library on the RCA website. 

MCI New Filing
Date Issued: 5/1/2008