Ill Communication

by Henry on February 8, 2004

A cautionary tale – over the last couple of years, my wife and I have been using cheap prefix companies in Canada and the US to make long distance and international phonecalls. In the US we’ve been using 101-6868, a fairly popular – and cheap – service, which bills indirectly (you see the charge on your monthly phone bill from your carrier). No more. My wife changed phone carrier a few months ago, which apparently meant that “PT-1 Long Distance”:http://www.pt-1.com/, the proprietor of 101-6868 wasn’t able to charge us properly (I presume they didn’t have a relationship with our new carrier). PT-1’s reaction wasn’t to phone us, or to send us a bill – it was to refer the matter (involving the princely sum of $8.93) directly to a debt collection agency, which then sent my wife a dunning letter threatening the usual kinds of nastiness. A couple of very irate phonecalls seem to have sorted the problem out – but other users of the service (or its competitors) may want to take this under advisement. All the more so, as we’re apparently “not the only people”:http://www.csua.berkeley.edu/~tien/consumer/pt1-others.html who’ve had this experience with PT-1 Long Distance; indeed, it appears that we’ve gotten off quite lightly in comparison.

{ 5 comments }

1

Matt 02.08.04 at 2:36 am

Something else to watch out for w/ such systems- it’s quite easy to miss-dial, sometimes resulting in _very_ large fees. I regularly used a dial-around through World exchange, and have had no problems w/ them. But, I once accidentally reversed two of the numbers w/o noticing, only to get a $500 phone bill for an hour long call. (The normal rate would have been something like $7). The call had been re-roughted through Kazakhstan, through some shady business. Thankfully MCI, who was nominally the billing agent, re-billed it. But, it can be quite a shock.

2

Dennis Slater 02.08.04 at 4:58 am

Sam’s Club sells phone cards for around 3 cents a minute. I have used them for some time and changed my phone service to reflect that. We cannot make long distance calls from our phones. Saves a ton of money. And you do not have to pay all those taxes, franchise fees, connection fees, etc. that we did when we used a long distance service. There is still a $5-6 federal access fee on our monthly bill that we cannot get rid of. My typical phone bill is $13-14 plus the access fee plus all the taxes, etc..

The phone card can be easily recharged and is virtually theft proof from what I can see. A thief could not use more than what is on the card anyway.

Get a phone card from Sam’s Club and cut out your long distance service. Program the numbers into your phone and be happy.

3

laura 02.08.04 at 5:42 am

Thanks for the warning. I’ve had equivalently bad experiences with AT&T–no collection agencies involved, but they repeatedly switched a number back into the name of a housemate who’d left more than a year before, stopped sending me bills, then cut off service because I hadn’t paid the bill I hadn’t gotten. This happened 3 times over a year and each time I had the number transferred into my name AGAIN; when I finally called to have service terminated, they insisted I couldn’t do it because the phone number wasn’t in my name. I ended up paying a ridiculously inflated bill because at some point they had also unenrolled us from the reasonable rate plan I’d signed up for. Then to get AT&T to stop being my long distance carrier I had to call my local carrier and have THEM change it, in addition to spending hours on the phone with AT&T and sending them written notice.

I pretty much switched to my cell phone and the occasional pre-paid card. Phone companies just suck, I guess.

4

No Preference 02.08.04 at 12:30 pm

I have been using voice over I/P from Vonage for about a year. This service allows you to make unlimited calls anywhere in the US and Canada for $35/mo, and international calls at low rates. It shares your computer’s high speed internet connection (DSL or cable). It uses a digital phone adapter which you must hook up yourself, but it works with your regular phone.

Voice quality is not bad. Phone services such as voice mail, call forwarding, and call waiting are included in the basic price.

This has worked well enough for us to unplug our old home phone service. Its Achilles heel is that it is dependent on the reliability of your internet connection, and will also fail if your power goes down. My wife and I have cell phones for backup.

5

daithi mac mhaolmhuaidh 02.08.04 at 10:20 pm

I just pick up a bunch of phone cards every couple of months to phone Ireland from the States. Much easier.

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