AT&T Charging Eight Minutes For One Minute Call; Blames Regulations That Don't Appear To Exist

from the wouldn't-it-be-nice... dept

It really would be nice to have a day go by when we don’t hear about yet another attempt by telcos to rip people off, usually either by exploiting some bad regulation or simply pretending that the fee is required by regulations. Falling into the latter camp is a story Broadband Reports points us to. It appears that in a few states, including Missouri, AT&T is charging phone card users 8 minutes of time for every 1 minute used for in-state calling. The company claims this is due to FCC regulations — though the FCC responds that “Calling cards aren’t regulated. Period.” Oops. That last link shows a state-by-state list of what multiple is used for in-state calls. The only places where you get a 1 to 1 conversion are Washington DC, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the US Virgin Islands. Everywhere else, and you’re being charged three, five or eight minutes for every minute used.

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Comments on “AT&T Charging Eight Minutes For One Minute Call; Blames Regulations That Don't Appear To Exist”

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Anonymous Coward says:

If you’re using a calling card, it’s generally because you can’t get a cell phone yet due no credit. In other words, you have no money, and can’t sue for fraud, thus they screw you with no fear of retaliation.

Alternatively, you’re traveling from another country, and using the calling card because you just need long distance access for the few weeks you’re going to be over here. In this case, you’re not going to attempt an international lawsuit to get the dollar back you got screwed out of.

In either case, they get away with pretty much outright theft and fraud.

Jemma says:

Stick it to the man - buy a prepaid Costco calling

The best deal ever for phone cards is Costco’s prepaid card, which is usually sold under a few different brand names at the warehouse stores. The last time I bought one for Canadian travel, the per minute rate was a set 5.9 cents a minute. Unfortunately, as one poster noted, calling cards are usually marketed to the non-affluent, who probably don’t have access to a Costco membership, and will continue getting screwed by the likes of AT&T.

Anonymous Coward says:

I got hit by it (not in MO)

I was wondering why I seemed to go through minutes a lot faster recently. I wish there was a way to ding them for this (beyond not buying any more minutes).

I didn’t hang on to the original paperwork, so I can’t go back and check if the terms were subject to change without notice. But if this is a true case of fraud, I hope some lawyer out there decides to get rich with a class-action suit.

Dillenger69 says:

The best thing for them to do would be to stop calling them “minutes” and start calling them “credits”, then put the credits to minutes conversion chart on some backwater website you can only get to via two registrations and 30 links.

Calling them “minutes” then using more than one per minute is just plain old false advertising.

Lauren says:

AT&T was losing its shirt on some in-state calls

I use calling cards because they are much cheaper than any other option available to me.

I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but in my home state of Alaska, the wholesale rate at which AT&T buys intrastate l/d is several times higher than what I pay at the calling card rate.

I expected them to do something like this to keep from losing money on cards that were used extensively for instate calls.

They certainly could have been more forthcoming about the rate increase; I only found out about it the last time I recharged.

SFGary says:

“As Willie Sutton the bank robber said when asked why he robbed banks, ‘because that’s where the money is’.” (Willie later said a reporter coined the term but that’s another story).

The lazy bastards at AT&T and other oligopolies know that the customers can take a lot of pain before they try to switch to another service. Sadly in the case of telephone, cable, utilities and other such companies you go from bad to worse. FCC and other government agencies are also helping them along by weakening or killing off a lot of regulation.

Rhonda (user link) says:

Charges per minute?

The Idaho Public Utilities commission did an investigation awhile back on this subject because of a consumer complaint. Before you ask, no they really don’t regulate it. But they found from their investigation that the card had a 50 cent per minute charge for use of the card. The card charged something like 8 cents per minute, so they ended up just taking 6 minutes out for every 1 minute in order to get their fees. I’m not entirely sure if it was a disclosed fee or not.

Capitalist Pig says:

Don't use them

While I definitely think that is a ripoff, no one is forced to use them. If people pay it, it is their own fault. There are other options. Why complain? This is America. Take your business elsewhere.

On another note, how many other ways are there to make calls? I mean VOIP, cell, even flat rate long distance from your telco is a better deal. A fool and his money… and all that.

haywood says:

Re: Don't use them

I disagree, The flat rate form the telco wouldn’t be a better deal for me. The best rate they have is $48 per month + outrageous taxes which bundled with local service comes to over $75 per month. I can get 2 sprint cards for less than $60 and they last me 6 months. I can call all I want for less than $30 per month.

Tin Ear says:

I haven't had phone service in years.

I’ve used Skype exclusively for the past three years. Granted, I’m not traveling or transient, but I see no point in buying calling cards. On top of that, Skype gave me a YEARLY charge of around fifteen bucks for continent wide long distance to any phone. Of course, overseas calls will still cost me if I knew anybody overseas.. That doesn’t seem to be a problem.

Telcos can just dry up. Greedy bastards.

leroy says:

calling cards for the poor?

The presumption above that calling cards are used mostly by the poor, folks with poor credit, no phone, the downtrodden, foreigners, is way off the mark. I know several middle class people, like myself. College educated, have a phone and a cellphone. The trend is for people to use their cellphone for all long distance and drop all long distance service on the home land-line phone. This ends that cost and stops that telemarketing. And for the one or two long distance calls a year you would make on the home phone, the prepaid calling card is the method of choice.

The cost of a prepaid long distance card from AT&T at Walmart, about $6 for 60 minutes is an extremely bad value. Almost any other card is nearly double the talk-time for the same price, and you wouldnt have to listen to the mandatory commercial for walmart before the number is dialed.

The best value I have seen is 30 minutes for 99 cents from Dollar Tree or Family Dollar. Cheap paper card, minimal commercials.

Many people use pre-paid because it’s cheaper than calling from their home phone or someone elses phone, not because they’re a bad credit risk.


sam says:

i’m sure you have stats to back up your low-income using perpaid cards assertions…

thought not!

i’ve used the att perpaid card from sam’s for years, given it’s $0.03/min charge, which was cheaper than most home calling plans. once mci did their neighborhood plan, i switched as my per min charge is now sub $0.01/min… yeah.. i use the phone alot!! but i can call across US/Canada for a single charge..

anyway.. after having a losing conversation with an idiot at att, i’ll be taking my dsl/dishTV, as well as the cingular cell acct from att to some other biz.

i told them if they couldn’t/wouldn’t help deal with this issue, screw ’em..

i spend well over $250/month on the other services… i spend ~10-20/month making instate (cali) calls on the card…

this is their mentality.. let ’em go!!

the guy i talked to was lorenzo williams – reach him at 908-221-4191. hit the residential option.


Anonymous Coward says:


IIRC, states are able to tax intrastate calls but not interstate. A state tax of a few cents a minute used to be a smaller percentage than it is now. There’s no *requirement* that AT&T charge more for intrastate calls, but 2.8c/min doesn’t leave much room to collect taxes and make a profit.

One carrier tried routing intrastate calls through switches in neighboring states in an attempt to avoid intrastate taxes (the call crossed a state line!), but there was trouble over it.

Dennis says:

Re: How do you cancel the card?

I concur re: problems listed above.

And yes, AT&T service rep. does – in broken English, no less – say that they were required by FCC to increase instate fees.

To get a person to talk to, just wait when they say: “Say___, or say___, or say ___ for correct option.” If you never talk, they will say, “Sorry, I didn’t understand you. . .” 2-3 times, and THEN AND ONLY THEN give you a customer service representative as an option.


Sharon says:


Hello- just had to pass this one on. A little background first. My daughter has a friend who is an extremely bad home situation. This young girl was put into protective custody last month in a facility approximately 60 miles from where I live. She called me collect (as I have asked her to do whenever she needs to talk to me). One call was placed at 6:56 pm on 4/24, and lasted for 22 minutes. The charge was $32.55. The other call was placed at 6:54 am on 4/25 and lasted for 9 minutes. The charge for this call was $16.85. As if these charges aren’t outrageous enough, AT&T then went on to charge various taxes and surcharges:
– Payphone usage fee- recovers a payphone usage fee imposed upon AT&T- $1.12
– CA Relay Service and Comm. Devices Funds Surcharge .18
– Universal Lifeline Service Surcharge .58
– CHCF-A, CHCF-B .77
– Pub Utl Comm Fee .05
-California Teleconnect Fund Surcharge .06
-Utility Users Tax 3.39
– 9-1-1 surcharge .27
The total bill came to $55.82 for 31 minutes of within-state calls.
I am 56 years old and I gotta say- I have NEVER seen anything this outrageous in my life. When the mail came yesterday, with an envelope from AT&T printed with ‘billing statement enclosed’ (or words to that effect), I almost didn’t open it. We get out telephone service in a ‘bundle’ deal with our cable tv/ high-speed internet service. Haven’t used AT&T in years because of previous EXTREMELY bad experiences with them.
Anyway- just had to share my tale of shock & disbelief brought to you and me courtesy of the fine folks at AT&T

Bill Mentzer says:

Can you spell

I am not poor. I don’t have poor credit. I don’t “live” on the phone. I just don’t like getting screwed over. I use my calling card to control costs. I paid for and agreed to the “contract” at the time I purchased my Sam’s Club AT&T 1500 minute calling card. AT&T changed my contract during the time that I actually had 500 minutes left on my card, now I have under 100 minutes left. I should have been “grandfathered” in at the old rate until I either agreed to the new contract/rates and renewed my card or I cancelled my service.

Once again the customer gets screwed over because we don’t have the money to take a BIG corporation to court to contest the new rates.

Quilly Regnold says:

Matt Bennett What a Guy huh??

Look at these jewels from a true benighted segregationist!

1)”They frankly probably only get away with this kind of stuff because the majority of phone card users are uneducated and also usually foreign.”

2)”You can get offended if you want, but it’s still MOSTLY low-income people.”

Do you have any facts to back these statements?? Or is this just you’re lowbred beliefs?
The only fact I can see is that you are at worst a misanthropist & at best middle class.

I own an At&t pre-paid card, I have for 7 years. At my last recharge,(which I did with an AT&T customer service rep) they never told me that the instate rate had changed!!!
I cannot believe you would take their side!

I Have a BA,own 3 car dealerships in southern Iowa & I could probably buy and sell a little mental defective like you twice over.
Most of my customer are poor to middle class, Farmers and such. I can tell you this: Poor doesn’t equal stupid. But I can tell you what does: people who mock them! If you didn’t get that Matty-boy…….I mean you

Douglas Higgins says:

ATT Calling Card Rip Off

I agree: I recently “recharged” my existing calling card with 1200 minutes at SAM’s. No mention was made when I paid my $34 fee that I wasn’t getting 1200 minutes of calling time, but, less than 500 to make in state calls to a number that is about 15 miles from me. This is an incredible rip off by ATT, and, I believe that SAM’s should be warning their members of this before they buy. Rest assured that I won’t be “recharging” this card again once I use the “minutes” on this one.

MX Mom says:

Just drop AT&T

It all boils down to this…one of the best long distance deals USED to be the AT&T prepaid card from Sam’s. Now it’s not. The best defense the consumer has is to just stop purchasing. Of course AT&T is lying…the FCC didn’t MAKE them raise their rates. The FCC just gave them their APPROVAL to raise rates. This is all evident due to the fact you can still purchase prepaid cards from other providers at the 1 unit/1 minute rate for calls originating and ending in the same state. The only thing that will hurt AT&T is hitting them in their “pocket”. Shop around and be a wise consumer.

Guest2469 says:

I just got off the phone with the Sam’s club, att people. They actually credited my card 60 mins as a resolution. I mentioned that really meant 20 mins but let it go as the poor phone person could do no more.
I hate to see under educated people blamed for overcharges. They can afford it less than others and the way the big companies lure people into deals as a normal practice shows they consider all of us, as a whole, to be under educated. Also why would overcharging a poor person make the rich company right? I’m new here so I’ll leave it at that.

alex says:

over charge by Just call phone card

I recently discovered that I was getting charged at least 3 to 4 minutes for every minute i was using when I call with Just Call card.
i tried to resolve it with customer service , they refunded me some money back and they said sorry. and they said it should not happen again.
Sure enough , it happened again.
They said they are going to file a complaint with the “concerned department”
this should resolve in 48 hrs. I doubt it. This is just plain fraud and deceptive advertising.
Buyer beware!!!!!!

russel rose says:

u must advocate for victims because ATT is excessive with thier prices

started off with 20 dollars for internet went up to 45 dollars behind my back– what a cut throat criminal

undercover activity- u must fight very hard against ATT this company is about scandles and victimizing innocent customers The Lord Jesus Christ is not happy with thier way and they will eventually reap what they sew

Im sure this company is under investigation

Redirwol (profile) says:


You request a Facebook add, which I accept, so that you can verbally assault me about what I don’t know. So what exactly pissed you off, COWARD? I see you enjoy insulting people. Well your alleged superior intellect failed to completely hide from me. If you are looking for a pedophile, look into a mirror BITCH. Pedophiles are cowards, they hide from society. And you ran and hide from me after you did your uncalled for attack on me. Well, I don’t hide from Bitch ass cowards like you. You know who I am. Try that shit again, this time with guts, if you have any!

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