Northwest NEWS

May 14, 2001


Guest Editorial: Be careful when using unfamiliar public phones

From the WUTC
   With the travel season about to begin, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) would like you to be prepared whenever you use an unfamiliar pay phone or hotel room phone.
   Telephone deregulation allows pay phones and hotels to charge more than the going rate for long-distance and operator-assisted calls. Even local calls may be more than what you are used to paying. While not all pay phones and hotels apply high charges, enough of them do to justify being careful when using a phone away from home.
   For instance, a Vancouver, Wash., woman recently made a four-minute call to Portland from a pay phone and was billed $20.65. A Spokane couple made a one-minute local collect call from a phone booth and was charged $19.
   These steep charges might have been avoided if the callers had followed some simple steps. These steps include taking a moment to read the disclosure information on the phone, listening for the opportunity to request a rate quote and being prepared to use another provider if necessary.
   Last year, over 1,000 people contacted the WUTC regarding problems they experienced while using pay phones. The agency has compiled this consumer knowledge into a fact sheet and an easy to carry wallet card.
   This card is designed to provide you with the information you need to know when you need to know it, including how to "dial around" so that you can use your preferred long-distance carrier.
   The WUTC will send out a fact sheet and as many wallet cards as you request for free. To order, call toll-free 1-888-437-0565 or visit the agency's Web site at:
   The WUTC is the state agency responsible for regulating the provision of telephone service in the state of Washington. The agency also regulates other utility services, such as electricity, natural gas, water and garbage collection, when provided by a for-profit company.