TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Remote Call Forwarding

Re: Remote Call Forwarding
Tue, 1 Nov 2005 14:39:13 EST

Regarding my October 26 post on Remote Call Forwarding TELECOM Digest
Editor noted:

> I do not feel that merely a desire to have a 'presence in a community'
> is in itself a sign of fraud.

Here's an example, we'll name it - Which Number Do I Call? The object
is to decide which phone number to call; that's pretty easy. You are
a reasonable consumer, living in Independence, Kansas.

Your car is in the driveway and won't start. (Or your furnace is
misfiring, your hot-water heater burst, you need an oil delivery; you
need your lawn re-seeded, carpets cleaned, etc, take your pick.

You look in your local telephone book which covers Independence,
Kansas. You find numerous businesses offering the service you need,
all with your l ocal telephone exchange of (620) 331-xxxx. Looking at
the information printed in the telephone book, the playing field
appears pretty level. They all have 331 exchanges. So far, so
good. Narrow it down to 2 or 3 choices, and start calling for
estimates. (Johnny's Service Co, Neighborhood Service, and A-1
Service, for example) (Being the Game-master, I have inside
information; some of these listings use a Remote Call Forwarded
number. RCF, using a local telephone exchange, does not require an
address to be listed in the directory, according to Verizon, Bell
South, or Quests Standards and Ethics).

You find that two businesses charge an hourly fee of $150 per hour,
with a $5 per mile service fee. One savvy business charges $119 per
hour, plus $5 per mile service fee. Who are you going to call, being a
reasonable consumer? (The Federal Trade Commission examines
information from the viewpoint of a reasonable consumer, when
determining if deception has occurred.) If you choose business #2 who
charges the lowest hourly fee ... You just got screwed. LOL They
fooled you, huh? Were you decieved?

You just paid $5 per mile from Chicago to Kansas! Let's try those
other local listings. I assert that the service of Remote Call
Forward facilitates deception, and it is willful and intentional.

Why else would a foreign business use 'Remote Call Forwarding',
assuming a local appearing telephone number, and buy RCF listings in
your local telephone directory, if not to give the impression of being

> But I don't want my customer to have to dial eleven digits; I want a
> convenient way for them to reach me by dialing just seven digits,
> instead of having to dial eleven.

For a bona fide in-state business, even without the use of Remote Call
Forwarding, the customer would still dial only seven digits.

TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Allow me to interuppt. That is where you
are wrong. Kansas is not as small a geographic area as New Hampshire.
We have three or four area codes in this state and _anything_ outside
of our _local immediate area_ (Coffeyville, for example, only about
ten miles away) requires eleven digits, 1 plus 620 (or other area
including 'toll free' numbers.) Now back to you. PAT]

The argument of saving the customer a toll-charge doesn't fly either.
The business has the opportunity to list an 800 number. Back to the
above scenario: All those businesses were in the Independence KS
telephone book, with local telephone exchanges. Are you likely to
suffer any injury based on your decision? Injury to the consumer can
be physical, or monetary. Injury exists, if the consumer would have
chosen differently, but for the deception. Would you have chosen
differently, had you known the business you called was using a 'Remote
Call Forwarded Number' and was a non local business?

Verizon states:

'Remote Call Forwarding' allows you to establish a
'local' presence in almost any location, just by having a local
phone number, even if you don't have a physical office in that
area. In his notes, the Editor posed a few questions to my
post which I will try to answer.

> 1. Q) Does the term 'Manchester' or 'Concord' (for example)
> absolutely refer to the towns by those names in New Hampshire, or
> are those generic phrases anyone can use to call their business
> (assuming the owner has the appropriate business licenses, etc?)

A) State and federal laws prohibit misrepresentation "as to the origin
or source of goods or services". If a business is registered in New
Hampshire, and uses the name Manchester XXXX in its advertising, where
does it refer to? What would a reasonable consumer presume?

> 2. Q). What if a person has two places of business, both essentially
> the same, and they use regular call forwarding to forward one of their
> phones to the other location? Is that deceptive?

A) No. Regular Call Forwarding does not require special equipment,
and does not involve a switching station. The business has a true
physical location at which the dialed number actually terminates;
there is no deception as to the origin of goods or services.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: So you are suggesting that if the New
Jersey person rented some closet somewhere, installed a phone, dialed
*72 (New Hampshire number), then disconnected the phone and carried it
away with him back to his office somewhere else that would _not_ be
deceptive? After all, he did do the call waiting routine himself, did
he not? That would qualify his act as legal and non-deceptive?

RCF does not require any 'special equipment'. It is simply a regular
telephone line (priced at business rates) with its termination in
the central office rather than on customer premise. The star 72 (or
other software code dialed) is done at the central office instead of
at the premises. Like call forwarding done _at the premises_, from
that time forward every call to that line is forwarded to wherever at
_station_to_station, direct dial rates for the current time of day. No
magic about it. Unlike 'regular call forwarding' where it is up to you
to turn it on or off as desired, with RCF it has to be done by calling
a certain number, and 'logging in' using your number and your
password. Then at that point you do the *72 routine. Now back to you
again. PAT]

> Q) Suppose the same person has a 'foreign exchange' line from
> one community which terminates in another town? Is that -- in and
> of itself -- deceptive?

A) Yes. You are describing Remote Call Forwarding. The call is
switched to another town or community. The RCF number is dialed and
terminates at a switching station. The call then gets picked up and
switched, terminating in a different community, without the knowledge
of the consumer. He is unaware that he has just called a foreign
exchange in a different location. That is the crux of the problem with
RCF. The geographical location where the customer believes he is
calling is not where his call finally terminates.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: No, I am _not_ describing RCF. Like the
minor differences between Caller ID and ANI where both produce the
same end result for the subscriber, the mechanics are different. RCF
is a _one way only_ feature. You call in from a distance and use
it. You are switched from your local office to wherever. No circuits
are tied down or dedicated at all. FX on the other hand is switched in
and out of the _foreign_ (distant city) exchange. In your example, RCF
uses the New Hampshire phone number to ring a number in New Jersey. With
FX a physical wire pair is 'nailed down' somewhere in New Hampshire
but the central office is in New Jersey. The New Jersey person, on
lifting the phone to use it hears 'New Jersey dialtone', where with
RCF the caller hears his local dialtone. Now you again. PAT]

> 4. Q) Suppose my business has an 800 number, ostensibly to save on
> toll charges for my customers, but in fact most or all of my customers
> are local people and would not incur any long distance charges by
> calling me anyway?

A) If most of your customers are local, then you have no need for an
800 number; there are no benefits to you or the consumer.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: That is true, but for various reasons
(such as automatic, star 67 defeating, caller ID) prefer to go that
way. Only its not 'caller ID'; its actually ANI they are getting via
their 'caller ID box'. PAT]

> 5 Q) How do you know -- if you know -- that a call to 'Concord
> Florist'which gets picked up by an order taker '75 miles away' does
> not get wire-transferred to a truly local florist for handling?

A.) That is exactly how it happens. The customer thought they called
Concord Florist but the call was switched, and terminate d at a
different location, unbeknownst to the consumer. RCF allows this to
happen; this is the premise of RCF.

'Remote Call Forwarding' allows you to establish a "local" presence in
almost any location, just by having a local phone number. The
middleman then wire-transfers the order to the truly local florist. He
ads an extra =E2=80=9Chandling fee usually $10 - $15 to the consumer;
and from the net flower amount", he deducts a commission (20 percent),
before he wires the order to the florist.

Would that consumer have chosen differently but for the deception?
Was there any monetary injury? Is this a fair trade practice? Much
like our example of calling that business in Independence, Kansas,
the customer thought they dialed a local business.

There are so many businesses using Remote Call Forwarding, when a
truly LOCAL florist receives a wire in-transferred order, he has no
way of knowing if the sending business is a legitimate florist, or
just an order collecting agency which uses Remote Call Forwarding to
attract customers.

Our wire-service companies try to screen out deceptive florists, but
can't catch them all. The Telephone companies keep PROMOTING this
deceptive service.

> Q.) How do you know that 'Concord Florist' is nothing more than an
> agency for one or more local florists truly in the community, sending
> wire transfers around all the time on some sort of commission
> arrangement?

A). I know because I have dialed Concord Florist, using the local
Concord NH phone number of 603-227-0722, and found out that my call
ends in New Jersey. Additionally, as a local florist, why would I
knowingly agree to fill orders, on a discounted commission agreement
no less, with a company in New Jersey that is competing with me, for
my customers, in my own local phone book? Remote Call Forwarding
creates an unfair trade practice against true, local businesses.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: That is a business decision you make on
your own. Maybe that discounted pricing on orders via a competitor is
a good way of picking up business you would not have gotten otherwise,
or not without much grief. Customer is angry because once you (as
yourself) sold him some wilted flowers. He vows never to do business
with you again. "From now on I am going to call that other company in
town, Concord Flowers. They treated me okay, although they are a bit
more high priced. But for mother's funeral I only want the best anyway."
Unless the end-user customer is right there in the funeral home when
you -- as yourself -- deliver the flowers for his mother's funeral, he
is not going to know the difference anyway. Or would you take off your
uniform (or put a patch on covering up other insignia) and claim to
be coming from Concord Florist?

Here in Independence, I personally deal with a telephone company
called 'Prairie Stream Communications' instead of Southwestern Bell.
You know why I, and many other folks in town do that? Because SBC has
gotten so many of us almighty pissed off over the years. But you know
what? On the very rare occasion a tech visit is needed and I call
Prairie Stream, a service tech from Southwestern Bell comes around
because SBC controls the lines and wires, in the same way that _you_
and your other locals control the local florist business. No matter
what the 'out of town competitors' call themselves, 'Concord' or
'Manchester' or whatever, and no matter what deals you all cut among
yourselves for the actual cost and delivery of the flowers, it is
still your territory, just like Independence, Kansas is Southwestern
Bell's territory. PAT]

> Q.) And since we are talking about it, what is your personal opinion
> of the service 1-800-FLOWERS?

A) As to 800-Flowers, they are competing fairly and justly. No unfair
trade practices, no deception to the consumer. But please, call your
local florist ;-)

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Unless he gets me really pissed off, I
probably will do just that. But like Southwestern Bell, it is great to
have reasonably priced (IMO at least) options. PAT]

8 Q.) If you can demonstrate where actual fraud or deception has
occurred as a result of this, it would be interesting to hear actual

A.) In my industry, the floral industry, RCF listings appear by the
thousands. For just ONE company using RCF, I have over 1,200 RCF
listing this company buys RCF numbers and listings in every city with
a hospital and funeral homes. This is an unfair trade practice played
out against local businesses.

Also, for years, the Telephone Companies have been making a profit from
selling this deceptive service; this is unjust enrichment.
Dateline NBC has done an expose on this subject the transcript can be
viewed at:

I keep a log of records from myself and other shops that receive
complaints ; consumers thought they called a legitimate local shop
then they call us because their flowers were never delivered; their
credit card reflects a higher price than quoted, they paid $50, and
only got $30 worth of flowers.

These links are also related to deceptive telephone listings:
Check out the 'Florist Of' listings; call and see
where they are located; check out the location on the map.

Lastly, the Editor states:

> As it turns out, although I have phone numbers in Chicago, in
> London, England, and Winfield, KS, my only actual office is in
> Independence, KS; all the other locations named above funnel in to
> me using RCF through Vonage.

I ask: Those calls that are funneled to you using RCF through Vonage
Is that service allowing you to create a local appearance? Do people
in Chicago dial a local appearing telephone number, thinking they are
calling a business in Chicago, and unknowingly switched to a business
in Kansas? Under the CPA (Consumer Protection Act), a consumer need
not actually be confused or misled if the information is found to have
the capacity to mislead or deceive. Does your RCF Winfield telephone
number give you a local presence? Is the customer likely to be misled?


[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Independence, KS was _not_ a good
example for you to use. Reason is, this podunk little town has a
population of about eight thousand people. We are the second largest
town within six counties. All of our telephones begin 331 and the
Southwestern Bell _regional_ telephone directory (covering about six
counties in rural s.e. Kansas) is a small (about 4.5" by 6" long)
book with 365 'white' pages' and 173 'yellow' pages. Our _local_ phone
book is the same size, about 25 pages in total, white and yellow
pages combined. _Anywhere_ I call other than 330,331,332 numbers has
to have one plus area code on the front of it. ('331' [Edison-1] is
our traditional exchange here; cell phones are '330'; municipal
government and a couple of large employers have centrex on '332').
The largest town in this area is our neighbor to the immediate south,
Coffeyville, population twelve thousand, all on 620-251 except a very
few others on 252. They use the same regional phone book as us, and
their local phone book is slightly more pages. They are the same way,
as is Tyro, KS (620-289), Cherryvale (620-336) and others. If not your
immediate exchange, (which is your local calling area), dial 1 plus
the area code. We have one hospital (Mercy) and two funeral homes
here in town (Potts and Penwell-Gabel). Needless to say, we only use
four digit phone numbers in verbal practice and everyone knows
everyone else. If you will pardon me for saying so, if we ever had
any FX or RCF type listings in our phone book, they would stand out
like a sore thumb. I do not think very many people would be decieved
by the presence of a 'new merchant' (who wasn't really) in town. We
have three actual florists in town with physical locations here:
(1) Twigs [downtown on Penn and Myrtle Sts phone 331-2013] (2)
Hassleman's [801 North Penn, phone 331-0961] and the Floral Emporium
[814 West Chestnut, phone 331-3113].

But now that you mention it (and I had not seen it before) there is
also an RCF listing in our phone book _but with the complete address_
given as well: "Independence Florist, 390 Route Ten, Randolph, NJ"
with the Independence phone number 331-0307. But the address is
printed plainly, not missing. He is also in the Coffeyville book with
the same address (in NJ) but an 800 number. When I dialed the number,
it was answered with a generic voicemail saying 'thank you for calling
the florist shop. Press 1 for, etc."

Is that guy in Randolph NJ the one you have your beef with? As
Shakespeare once phrased it 'Much Ado About Nothing.' Heck, most of
our merchants here in town are still fussing about Walmart moving into
town back in 2001 and trying to 'take over everything'. PAT]

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