Long Distance Phone Cards: Are Consumers Satisfied? Is Regulation Required?


Think Forward & Scire Solutions Inc.


Consumers Council of Canada (CCC)




The Consumers Council of Canada, a consumer advocacy and research organization, commissioned this study with support from Industry Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs to investigate consumer issues concerning prepaid phone cards. In light of recent regulation disallowing expiry dates on gift certificates and gift cards in Ontario, the Council sought to investigate the breadth of consumer issues with prepaid long distance calling cards and whether similar expiration policies and regulation should apply to prepaid phone cards.

The study aimed to answer the following questions:

• What are the sources of consumers' complaints?
• What are the characteristics of a basket of cards that are troublesome?
• Is there consistency in the complaints that can be addressed by stronger consumer protection legislation?
• What should consumers know before purchasing a long distance phone card?
• What have other countries done to increase consumer protection with regard to long distance telephone cards (i.e. United States, United Kingdom, and Australia)?
• What can the Canadian Government do to enhance consumer protection?

The proposed issues and concerns regarding the prepaid calling cards are:

• Access numbers or PINs that don't work;
• Service or access numbers that are always busy;
• Card issuers that go out of business, leaving people with useless cards;
• Rates that are higher than advertised or contain undisclosed fees;
• Cards that charge you even when your call doesn't go through;
• Poor quality connections; and
• Cards that expire without the purchaser's knowledge.

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OCA Funded Research
This research received funding support through the Office of Consumer Affairs' Contributions Program.

Contact information

Consumers Council of Canada
201-1920 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON  M4S 3E2
(416) 483-2696

Source: Consumer Policy Research Database

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