Mike’s mom is one of the fifteen people in the U.S. who doesn’t have a cell phone, so she called him collect from a pay phone in California. Mike and his mom didn’t know it at the time, but they fell into the sarlacc pit that is Custom TeleConnect, a creature that hides in payphones and charges $20 fees for less than half a minute of talking.
My mom hasn’t adjusted to life in the 21st century yet and does not have a cell phone. She needed to get in contact with me and made a collect call from a pay phone in Monterey, CA. Ok, no biggie, I’m always fine with helping mom out. I accepted the charges onto my credit card and we spoke for all of 20 seconds and then hung up.
I was curious as to what a collect call goes for these days and was surprised to see a charge for $20.14. I investigated the company that charged me (Custom TeleConnect) and found that they’re in the business of charging tons of money for collect calls.
Also, it seems like they often charge people more than once for the calls they placed. Further investigation shows that they really aren’t too into refunds as their phone numbers go to endless holds and answering machines. So, I’m fairly certain I’m stuck for the $20 because I did authorize the charge which I own up to, but $20 for a 20 second call is a little much.
The Consumer Affairs page Mike links to above has recent stories of Custom TeleConnect charging people an average of more than $7/minute for collect calls.
For a business that’s built around providing phone service, the company seems to have some serious problems with telephone systems. A couple of complaints mention that there’s no way to get rate info at a payphone because dialing zero as instructed doesn’t work. When one consumer tried to block the company’s collect calls to her home as per their instructions, the number she dialed told her that call volume was too high to process her request. (She was charged almost $200 for 9 collect calls that she refused to answer.)
The company can’t manage websites either. I emailed Custom TeleConnect at the email address provided on their “Contact Us” page, and it was bounced back with a “rejected by the recipient domain” error.
Mike, you should file a complaint with the FCC by filling out Form 2000B (English – PDF) (Spanish – PDF). You can also call the FCC at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322). Check this page for information on how to mail or fax your complaint.
Mike adds, “Also, I plan on getting my mom a pre-paid cell phone.”