MCI Admits It Illegally Gouged Families
Government Profits From Family Misery
SCANDAL -- The state of California collects "commissions" from private phone companies every time an incarcerated person places a collect phone call to his or her family.(Publisher's note -- neither MCI nor the government acted to do anything about this situation until the media became involved. Whenever you find something outrageous, always contact the media.)
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, two state senators have now asked the Department of Corrections and the Department of General Services to end the practice, which they say forces people who talk to prisoners to pay just about the highest phone rates in the nation. An investigation revealed the state earns as much as 44 cents per dollar on each collect call made from a state prison. Last year, California collected $16 million from prison phone calls.
This secret tax discourages phone calls. Studies have shown that inmates who keep in touch with family members are less likely to commit another crime once released.
And there's more. MCI, which has obtained an exclusive phone contract privilege in the vast majority of the state's prisons, has now admitted it illegally overcharged prisoners' families on many occasions.
The Utility Consumers Action Network submitted bills showing that MCI charged some customers higher-priced day rates for prison calls that were made during cheaper night or evening hours. Other bills showed customers being charged intrastate rates higher than what MCI is supposed to charge, according to tariffs filed with the PUC.
In the face of such clear proof, MCI had no choice but to admit, in a formal filing before state regulators, to several violations of law related to prison collect calls including:
- Improperly designating day, evening and night calls
- MCI's computer should not bill beyond time durations of collect calls
- MCI did not have state approval for charges it assessed customers.
- MCI improperly filed its rates with state regulators.
The case will now go before state regulators to determine the extent of these violations.
This article is based on news from the Utility Consumers' Action Network, http://www.ucan.org
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