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Sen. Ted W. Lieu of Torrance has introduced Senate Bill 50 that would require pay phone signage warning credit and debit card users in California that a 20-second call might cost them $20. The bill arises in part from two extremely dubious court decisions permitting San Diego's BBG Communications to continue charging $55 for one-minute phone calls from foreign phones. The charges have hit military personnel extremely hard. On January 10 of this year, federal judge Anthony J. Battaglia threw out a class action suit against BBG on the grounds that the aggrieved should have sued BBG's Switzerland operation, not the San Diego company. A judge in Texas gave a similar ruling. In San Diego, BBG's long-time law firm, Sheppard Mullin, argued that BBG Communications of San Diego and BBG Global are two separate entities, despite evidence that they were in constant contact.

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ImJustABill Dec. 24, 2012 @ 6:09 p.m.

You can make a Skype call nowadays just about anywhere for 20cents/min or less. And these guys zing unsespecting victims for $55/min. Outrageous.

In general, I'm not opposed to moderate price gouging - if someone wants to charge $20/gal for gas after a hurricane I'm OK with that.

But I think the more expensive a service is relative to prevaling price then the greater the responsibility the provider has to make sure the customer understands how high the price is. These phone companies are charging people more than 100X the going rate for a service. At that point, warning notes really aren't enough. I think the phone companies should not be able to charge that rate unless they have signed AND verbal acknowledgement from the customers that the customers understand how high the rate is.


Don Bauder Dec. 24, 2012 @ 10 p.m.

ImJustABill: What is really outrageous is that in Europe, the major victims are military people, often returning from the front, just giving a quick call to their families to let them know they are safe. But that doesn't bother BBG, its law firm, or the two judges who permit the company to hide behind offshore havens. Best, Don Bauder


Catbird Dec. 27, 2012 @ 12:39 a.m.

At least an elected official is still interested enough to attempt putting a kink in BBG's money train. Sad that the CA and TX lawsuits failed and this circuitious route will have to suffice.....for now.
Don't the companies that house the pay phones (airports, restaurants, public bldgs, etc) have a choice of service provider and don't they receive a hefty percentage of the charges per contract? If so, perhaps they, especially the airports, could be encouraged to change to other communications providers? And what about the credit card companies...can't this scam be addressed through their fraud departments?


Don Bauder Dec. 27, 2012 @ 1:53 p.m.

Catbird: All those are excellent points. The phones overseas are greatly in airports, which I suspect get a hefty percentage of the fees paid by the U.S. military personnel. Best, Don Bauder


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