Florida’s Public Service Commission (PSC) urges Florida’s Hispanic community to be cautious when purchasing and using pre-paid calling cards.
Pre-paid phone cards are popular because they are easy to use, especially for consumers making international calls. While the cards are convenient, they don’t always work as advertised. The PSC has recorded 57 consumer complaints in the last year. Common problems with the cards include, the card does not deliver the number of advertised calling minutes, access numbers don’t work, or card issuers are no longer in business, so the cards are useless.
According to a survey by Statmark in Miami, more than half of South Florida’s Hispanic population call their home country monthly and prefer calling cards to other international long distance calling options.
“With the popularity of the pre-paid cards in South Florida, we want to equip residents to make smart card purchases. Very low rates, particularly for international calls, may be a warning sign that the card won’t deliver the number of advertised minutes,” said PSC Chairman Matthew M. Carter II.
Although the PSC does not regulate international calling cards, its Pre-Paid Phone Card Brochure, in English and Spanish, offers the following consumer tips:
• Look for a toll-free customer service number; otherwise, you may not be able to contact the company if you have a problem.
• Check the card’s expiration date.
• Make sure the card can be used to your calling destination because fees do vary.
For more tips on using pre-paid phone cards, brochures in English and Spanish are available on the PSC’s Web site at www.floridapsc.com. Consumers can also call the PSC’s consumer line at 800-342-3552 (Spanish-speaking agents available).
“Because Florida’s Hispanic population is disproportionately impacted by pre-paid calling card scams, Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time for the Public Service Commission to repeat its message designed to protect consumers from these practices,” said Carter.
Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated nationwide and begins on September 15, the anniversary of independence for five Latin American countries - Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico achieved independence on September 16 and Chile on September 18. Hispanic Heritage Month has been celebrated in the United States since 1974, when President Gerald Ford issued a Presidential Proclamation extending Hispanic Heritage Week into a month-long celebration. For more on Florida’s events, go to http://www.floridahispanicheritage.com.
The PSC is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive their electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater services in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. The PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in the areas of rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service.
For additional information, visit www.floridapsc.com