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DATE:  December 22, 2003
Contact Person: Jim Mehlhaff, Consumer Affairs
Sue Schaefer, Information Officer 
Contact Phone:  605-773-3201

South Dakota PUC issues Consumer Advisory on Calling Card and Collect Calls

With the holidays approaching, South Dakota telephone customer phones will be ringing as they receive calls from friends and family.

he South Dakota Public Utilities Commission advises consumers to be watchful of the company that they're doing business with when making and receiving calling card or collect calls.

"Every caller has the opportunity to access the carrier of their choice by dialing a toll free number or access code," says PUC Commission Chairman Bob Sahr. "Phone companies are required to give consumers an opportunity to discover the rate they will be charged for a call before making and/or accepting charges on collect or calling card calls."

"Consumers have been startled by receiving charges billed at eight dollars per minute, with a four minute minimum after accepting collect calls from loved ones," adds Vice Chairman Gary Hanson. "Be vigilant and check the rate before accepting the call."

Commissioner Jim Burg also suggests that consumers can prevent phone bill surprises by using prepaid calling cards, but again, be sure to read the fine print before purchasing a calling card as some cards may charge a number of minutes just to connect the call. They may also have an expiration date that could leave consumers with unused pre-paid minutes.

Individuals should also make sure that their long-distance carriers for interstate and in-state toll calls haven't been switched without their permission, and check that they are receiving promised discounts or low rates from their long-distance carriers.

If consumers have experienced problems with their telephone bills, they are urged to call the PUC Consumer Office at 1-800-332-1782.

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