Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release - May 16, 2003.

Contact Rob Hillesland, Iowa Utilities Board*
[*Note: This release was issued by the Iowa Utilities Board, in cooperation with the Iowa Attorney General's Office.]

Small Business Alert:

Billings for Collect Telemarketing Calls

DES MOINES.  A consumer alert for Iowa small businesses was issued jointly today by Attorney General Tom Miller and Iowa Utilities Board Chairman Diane Munns regarding complaints about billings for collect telephone calls.

The staff at the Iowa Utilities Board and the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's office have received 20 complaints in recent days from small businesses who received bills in the amount of $28.84 for a three-minute collect telemarketing call most say they never accepted. According to the complaints, the telemarketing collect calls from a New Mexico firm were in the last four months of last year, but the bills are dated May 1 of this year. A Florida firm called "00" Operator Services is sending the bills. The billed calls all identified the same New Mexico telephone number as the originating party. The bills are separate and not part of the regular local telephone service bill.

Attempts to contact the Florida company have been unsuccessful. The New Mexico telemarketing firm is no longer in business. At least 10 other states have reported similar complaints in recent days from small business customers.

The Iowa complaints are being treated as "cramming" under Iowa law, which prohibits telecommunications services from billing unauthorized charges. Small businesses should be alert to such billing and if they believe it is erroneous keep the bill but do not immediately pay it without further investigation. They should also contact the IUB toll free at 1-877-565-4450.

Consumers should be wary of accepting collect telephone calls, especially if they do not know the calling party. It is a good practice to always check bills carefully to be certain there are no errors and you are not being billed for goods and services not wanted or not received.

The investigation of this matter continues by the Attorney General and the Iowa Utilities Board.

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*Iowa Utilities Board 350 Maple Street Des Moines, Iowa 50319 (515) 281-5979

Diane Munns, Chair, Mark Lambert, Board Member, Elliott Smith, Board Member