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Clifton Telecard Alliance / False advertising

1 United States

I purchased a number of ‘African Dream’ pre-paid phone cards distributed by this company to use for calls to South Africa.

At the time of purchase, the advertised rates for these calls indicated that a $2.00 card would give 51 minutes calling time. There is fine print stating that the rates are subject to change without notice.

When I dialed the number on 4-Mar-2006, a recorded message advised me that the card would provide 51 minutes of calling time. However, the card was cut-off after 35 minutes. (I used 2 cards at this time and this occurred with both cards.)

When I called their customer-services I was told that:
- The rates the company was charged by its carrier’s had increased therefore this had resulted in fewer minutes of calling time.
- This rate increase occurred 8 days prior to my call.
- The company did not believe that it had any obligation to change the pre-recorded message as it reserves the right to change rates.

I argue that the pre-recorded message providing the number of minutes of calling time at the time the call is actually made should reflect the current rates in existence. The invalid rates quoted (at the time the call is being made) is false and misleading advertising. Whilst the company reserves the right to change rates, it should not be permissible to continue advertising rates that are more than 30% higher than the rates actually charged on a real-time basis (i.e. when the customer is actually making the call.) This differential existed for at least 8 days (by the company’s own admission.)

In addition, the company claims that rates may go down as well as up. Therefore, the customer should have the opportunity to delay making the call in the hope that the rates may actually improve in future. If the advertised rate at the time of calling is false, this right is taken away from the customer.

I would like to see this company prosecuted for false advertising.

I would like to see regulations that enforce the consumer’s right to know the cost that will be charged before the charge is made so that the customer can exercise the right to choose. This can be done by regulations that specify that the number of minutes quoted at the time the call is made should be accurate and truthful.

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