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Two Dialing Services Prey on Consumers, FCC Says

September 24, 2002|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that it has proposed record fines of $6.6 million against two companies for allegedly preying on those who misdial popular numbers used for collect, credit card or other operator-assisted phone calls.

The FCC sought to fine One Call Communications Inc., which does business as Opticom, $5.12 million and ASC Telecom Inc., a unit of Sprint Corp., $1.44 million for engaging in what appeared to be "a deliberate scheme to take advantage of consumers' dialing errors."

The agency sent out staff members to purposely misdial from different pay phones widely known 1-800 dialing services and found that Opticom and ASC failed to notify callers they were using a different service or to provide rates.

"This so-called 'fat-fingered dialing' problem, where companies deliberately choose toll-free numbers similar to nationally advertised access numbers, is not fair to consumers who inadvertently misdial a number but are not then informed that they have reached a different provider than the one dialed," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said.

Attempts to contact Opticom, based in Carmel, Ind., were not successful.

One complaint sent to the FCC was from a consumer who was billed $61.74 for a 24-minute telephone collect call she received but Opticom did not identify itself as providing the service.

In one instance with ASC, a consumer complained that they were charged $10.80 for leaving a 30-second voicemail message while attempting to use AT&T's service.

The companies have 30 days to contest the proposed fine or pay it.

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