Anchorage, Alaska -- The Regulatory Commission of Alaska (RCA) has opened a formal investigation into the service availability issues (Docket U-09-54) and recharge practices (Docket U-09-55) of STi Prepaid, LLC (STi), which provides service through “Sprint” label prepaid calling cards.   The RCA has set a date for interested persons to file public comments and reply comments on each STi docket and scheduled a date for consumer input hearing.

Docket U-09-54: Public comments must be filed by 4 p.m., July 6, 2009, and reply comments must be filed by 4 p.m., August 5, 2009.

Docket U-09-55:  Public comments must be filed by 4 p.m., July 14, 2009, and reply comments must be filed by July 29, 2009.

Consumer Input Hearing: 6 p.m., July 7, 2009, in the RCA East Hearing Room, located at 701 West Eighth Avenue, Suite 300, Anchorage, Alaska.

In February through April 2009, the Consumer Protection Section of the RCA received consumer complaints concerning problems with telephone service provided through Sprint prepaid calling cards, and STi’s recent decision to prevent customers from recharging their Sprint calling cards if used in Alaska.  Complainants from different communities in Alaska purchased Sprint prepaid calling cards from Sam’s Club stores and possibly other retailers, with service typically offered at a rate of 2.83 per minute. STi assumed responsibility for Sprint prepaid calling cards after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a transfer of the Sprint card assets in September 2008. 

Historically, the RCA has taken an active role when prepaid calling card providers fail to operate their cards as represented at the point of sale or when Alaskans assert discrimination or harm from a carrier’s prepaid calling card recharge practices.  Some of the service problems reported by Sprint cardholders include, but are not limited to: dropped calls, high failure rate, delays occurring during call set up, and cards could not be used for calls to and from a certain location at times (e.g., Bettles).  STi’s decision to deny recharge of Alaska cards would appear to conflict with representations made by Sprint and STi when both companies sought FCC approval of the transfer of Sprint prepaid cards to STi.  In a joint filing with the FCC, Sprint and STi stated prepaid calling card customers “would not be impacted by the transfer and would continue to receive services without any change in rates, terms, or conditions of service.”

In Order U-09-55(1), the RCA required STi to reinstate the ability of Alaskans to recharge their Sprint prepaid calling cards by
May 29, 2009, and continue to allow recharge of cards pending conclusion of the proceeding.

Tips for Participating at Consumer Input Hearings
Date Issued: 6/29/2009