Determinations

TDR Case Note T010681 (2012)

Issue

Misleading information about charges for calls to a local access number from calling card

Background

The Customer purchased a calling card from the Scheme Member Provider (Provider) to make international toll calls as he was a regular user. He was advised by the retailer that the particular calling card was the ‘ideal’ card to use when calling from a mobile phone, but was not advised of any restrictions and charges with use of the card.

Following the instruction printed on the card, the Customer, who resides in Auckland, dialled the Auckland Local Access number and assumed that calls would be free as had been the case with previous cards he had used. In fact, his mobile phone invoice, which was normally about $80 to $90 per month, increased to $800 over a two month period, because of calls to the Local Access number.

The Customer complained that there was an absence of basic information printed on the card about the tariff or charges for calls made to the Local Access number from a landline phone or a mobile phone. He said that the provider therefore misled him and he requested the provider to refund him in full for all charges relating to the calls he made to the Local Access Number.

The provider responded that although it did not make it clear that calls from mobile phone to the Local Access Number would be charged, the rear of the card referred to a website address for “terms and conditions of use”, and the provider was not responsible for the Customer’s incorrect assumption about the Local Access Number. The provider stated that it could also not be held responsible for incorrect advice given to the Customer by a retailer. The provider therefore declined the Customer’s claim for monetary compensation. 

Adjudicator’s decision

The Adjudicator noted that the rear of the cardboard backing of the calling card stated “if you cannot call a local access number without dialling the area code, your call to that number will be charged to the phone you are calling from”. This information was also included in the conditions printed on the reverse side of the packaging, and the Customer, if he had read it, would have known that calling the access number from any phone when it was necessary to enter an access code, would incur charges. The Adjudicator was satisfed that the provider took reasonable steps to inform purchasers of the card of the actual charges when using the card from a mobile phone. The Customer could have avoided the situation if he had either asked the retailer which card could be used with a mobile phone without connection charges, or consulted the terms and conditions explained on the provider’s website as referred to on the calling card.  He could also have checked his invoice monthly to find out whether there were any access number charges, which would have limited his loss.

Final outcome

The Adjudicator dismissed the Customer’s complaint, and concluded that there was no reason in law or in fairness to find that the Provider should be liable for the customer’s losses. There were therefore no remedies awarded.