It has come to my attention that several long-distance companies are continuing to charge a "PICC-like" fee that is masked behind a supposedly government-authorized charge.
Until July 2000, per the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), long-distance companies charged a PICC (Primary Interexchange Carrier Charge) to residential and business lines; these monies went to the Local Exchange Carriers, which were, in turn, supposed to reduce the per-minute rate they charged long-distance companies for access to their switches. After July, only multi-line businesses were supposed to be charged (capped at $4.31 per line); residential and single-line businesses were no longer supposed to be charged. (The combined PICC/SLC (Subscriber Line Charge) now appears on the local phone bill for residential and single-line businesses.)
Well, thanks to a prospective customer who has service from a company we happen to work with, I discovered that many companies — including several that we work with — are continuing to charge a monthly fee and hiding this fee behind a goverment-authorized-sounding name. For example Broadwing charges a "Common Carrier Subscription Charge" of $4.67 for business lines and $2.54 for residential lines. Upon further inquiry, they admitted that it's actually a "management fee." I told them I have no problem with them charging a "fee" or a "management fee" as long as they describe it as such and let customers know about it ahead of time, but to call it a "Common Carrier Subscription Charge" or the like is wrong. They told me that other companies do the same thing: Qwest charges an "Access Line and Portability Charge" of $4.72; Sprint charges a "Presubscribed Line Charge" of $4.31.
And that's where you come in. I'm interested in knowing which service you have and what "PICC-like" fee you are being charged. You can call me toll-free at 877-466-8655 (877-4-NO-TOLL)
My next step will be to put a chart of the companies and charges on my web site and file a complaint with the FCC and contact my US Senators and Representative.
My recommendation for low-volume customers: To avoid these fees, get a non-prepaid service from CogniDial, AccuChat, or BigZoo (please note that we do not work with BigZoo); or get a no-surcharge prepaid card from a warehouse store like Sam's Club or Costco.
In essence, once customers got used to having a PICC on the bill — which was at one time an authorized FCC charge — long-distance companies figured they could subtly convert this to a fee by changing the name ever so slightly...and pocket the cash. This is an excellent lesson on why we should fight all new government charges tooth and nail.
For more information, call Chuck Azer, President of Toll-free Consortium, at 877-466-8655 or 877-4-NO-TOLL.
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