STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Division of The Ratepayer Advocate
31 Clinton Street, 11th Fl.
P. O. Box 46005
Newark, New Jersey 07101
|For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Newark, NJ – Ratepayer Advocate Seema M. Singh issued a Consumer Alert to all telephone consumers who dial up Internet access to make sure that the telephone number their computer automatically dials is a local number and not a more expensive toll call.
Ms. Singh said that she has received about half a dozen complaints in the last few months, including two within the last two weeks, from ratepayers who said that their dial-up Internet access telephone numbers had been switched without their knowledge from a local call, which was included in their unlimited local calling area, to a toll call within their same three-digit area code.
In one case brought to the Ratepayer Advocate’s attention, a senior citizen said she received a message on her computer that the access number she had been using for two years would be terminated. There was no further notification. She said that three months later she received a phone bill for $2,700, with another $1,000 billed the next month. She claims that her access number was switched to a toll call without her knowledge.
In another case, a ratepayer says he upgraded the software he used to go online with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and the access number he used was changed to a toll call within the same area code, also without his knowledge.
In both cases, the ratepayers said they only learned that the new phone number their computers dialed for Internet connection was switched to a toll call after they received their telephone bills, which were substantially higher, Ms. Singh said.
The problem may be with the Internet Service Provider that does not ensure that the customer has a local access number or a toll-free number to gain access to the Internet, she said.
“Double-check your access number to make sure you’re using a local telephone
number that is part of your local calling area and not a more expensive toll
call,” said Ms. Singh, who noted that standard service generally includes unlimited
“Consumers need to protect themselves,” Ms. Singh said. “You can call your Internet Service Provider to make sure that you still have a local number, which is part of your basic telephone service, or a toll-free number for dial up access. Your telephone book or your local telephone carrier can tell you if the number is local and part of your local calling area.”
Ms. Singh said the Ratepayer Advocate’s position in these cases is that ratepayers should receive a credit for any toll charges.
The Division of the Ratepayer Advocate is an independent state agency that represents the interests of utility consumers and serves as an active participant in every case where New Jersey utilities seek changes in their rates or services. The Ratepayer Advocate also gives consumers a voice in setting long-range energy, water, and telecommunications policy that will affect the delivery of utility services well into the future.
Additional information on this and other matters can be found at the Division
of Ratepayer Advocate’s website at http://www.rpa.state.nj.us
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