Maine—An unwelcome surprise for Maine phone card customers who found that
they had less time left than they thought they had paid for has led to
legislation thats being touted as the first of its kind in the country.
more stories like thisA bill thats up for an initial House vote as early as
Wednesday seeks to ensure that customers get all of the minutes they signed up
for when they bought their cards. It also would require providers to give notice
of planned rate increases to prepaid calling service customers before rates go
The bill also bars providers from increasing rates until the service is
"To my surprise, Maine is the first state we can trace ... to do this," said the
sponsor, Rep. Herbert Adams.
The Portland Democrats bill has the solid support of the Utilities and Energy
Committee, which enhances its chances of passage when it reaches the House and
Senate. It also drew support of major phone card providers in the state and
encountered no opposition at its Feb. 26 hearing.
The issue came up last year, when the Maine Public Utilities Commission received
complaints from a number of phone card holders who thought they had 1,000
minutes but were surprised to learn they only had about 300 left, said Adams.
The reason for the sudden reduction was an increase in AT&Ts instate phone
rates, according to Maine Public Advocate Richard Davies. The higher rates
resulted in less time that customers thought they had. Customers complained that
they had received no notice of the sudden rate hike, Davies said in testimony to
the utilities committee.
The public advocate said that one of Maines most popular prepaid calling
services is AT&Ts card marketed by Sams Club.
"These cards are the default longdistance service for elders on fixed incomes
and many Mainers who cannot afford monthly longdistance providers on their
phone bills," said Adams.
Private consumers were not the only ones who were hit with a sudden loss of
minutes. Adams said a number of legislators who are issued phone cards for their
state duties also found that their minutes has dipped suddenly.
"State government got surprised and I was one of them," said Adams.
Both the PUC and the Office of the Public Advocate testified in support of
Essentially, the bill would ensure that customers "know and get what they pay
for," the PUC said in prepared testimony. The commission said the legislation
seeks to codify an agreement that was put in place after the issue arose about a
Davies said the bill "addresses potential unfair and abusive practices by
providers of prepaid telephone services
** Check out our
International Calling Cards
Prepaid Calling Cards,
Long Distance Phone Cards