Burned on international calls

CONSUMING INTERESTS

November 06, 2007|By DAN THANH DANG

The Q:

If you sign up for a calling plan that excludes international calling, can you still be charged for international calls?

In early October, Mike Ross in Catonsville said he received a call from Verizon Communications informing him that someone had made $500 worth of calls to the Philippines on his home phone.

"I have their Freedom Essential Plans, which spells out that I get unlimited local and long distance, but no international calling," Ross said. "We use calling cards and such to make all our international calls.

"I know who it was, my wife's relative who was visiting, and he made the calls without asking or my knowledge," Ross added. "Why would they even let the call go through? Do I have any legitimate complaint against Verizon when I am not signed up for an international calling plan that they allow the calls to connect?"

The A:

While Verizon cannot fully turn on a mechanism to stop all international calls (since doing so would also interfere with Ross' ability to make overseas calls with a calling card), Ross can request that Verizon place a toll block on outgoing international calls on his line. Such toll block requests are often made to prevent expensive 1-900 calls from being rung up on a home phone.

"When a customer signs up for service, we don't automatically put this block on the line," said Verizon spokesman Sandra Arnette. "People are free to make any calls they wish. We can, however, place a block on their line if they request it."

Ross has now signed up for the international toll block. He is, however, still responsible for paying his bill.

"Verizon cannot police a customer's phone line," Arnette said. "However, we are willing to work out payment arrangements with Mr. Ross. And, we offered him an international calling plan, which would provide cheaper per-minute rates. Perhaps, Mr. Ross should consider asking the relative who made the calls to pay the bill."

Ross is going to take Verizon up on its offer for a payment plan. He's declining the offer for an international plan since his calling card is cheaper, he said.

As for asking the relative to pay the bill, that's a big fat no-go, Ross said. That would start World War III in the family.

Ross' solution?

"I told my wife next time we visit Manila, we're going to go make calls to the States from his house."

Reach Consuming Interests by e-mail at consuminginterests@baltsun .com or by phone at 410-332-6151. Find an archive of Consuming Interest columns at baltimoresun.com/consuming.

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