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Volume 28 : Issue 219 : "text" Format

Messages in this Issue:
  Our Payments Were Automatic. Stopping Them Wasn't.
  Phoning Home: The $32.39 Surprise
  Deregulated phone market has its 'gotcha' moments
  Massachusetts Supreme Court Strikes Class Action Ban, Rejects Texas Law
  An Interview With David Vladeck of the F.T.C.
  Fresh Views at Agency Overseeing Online Ads 
  And You Thought a Prescription Was Private

====== 27 years of TELECOM Digest -- Founded August 21, 1981 ====== Telecom and VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) Digest for the Internet. All contents here are copyrighted by Patrick Townson and the individual writers/correspondents. Articles may be used in other journals or newsgroups, provided the writer's name and the Digest are included in the fair use quote. By using -any name or email address- included herein for -any- reason other than responding to an article herein, you agree to pay a hundred dollars to the recipients of the email. =========================== Addresses herein are not to be added to any mailing list, nor to be sold or given away without explicit written consent. Chain letters, viruses, porn, spam, and miscellaneous junk are definitely unwelcome. We must fight spam for the same reason we fight crime: not because we are naive enough to believe that we will ever stamp it out, but because we do not want the kind of world that results when no one stands against crime. Geoffrey Welsh =========================== See the bottom of this issue for subscription and archive details and the name of our lawyer, and other stuff of interest. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 12:37:58 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <> To: Subject: Our Payments Were Automatic. Stopping Them Wasn't. Message-ID: <p06240826c6a4ab4f5887@[]> DIGITAL DOMAIN Our Payments Were Automatic. Stopping Them Wasn't. By RANDALL STROSS July 26, 2009 MY wife likes to anticipate things going awry. When she signed an auto lease agreement three years ago, she authorized the leasing company to pull its monthly payments directly from our checking account. But once the final payment had gone out, she gave me an assignment: cancel the automatic payment authorization with our bank. She was concerned that the payments would continue. A world-class worrier! Her premonitions came to pass, however. The week after she mailed her check to buy the car at the end of its lease and we thought that all was settled, we got a surprise: an extra, 37th monthly payment went to the leasing company. How was this even possible logistically? I had done as my wife asked and put in a preventative stop-payment request just in case with our bank, Citibank. In an e-mailed response, Citibank attributed the failure to stop payment to a mistake made by an employee, "an isolated incident due to human error." (It later restored the funds, but by that point the bank knew that its customer was a reporter; asked whether it was bank policy to always make customers whole when payment isn't properly stopped, a Citibank spokeswoman declined to answer this or any other questions.) At least Citibank owned up to having made a mistake. The leasing company, U.S. Bank, said that no mistake was made: it asserts a right to withdraw payments indefinitely until it declares a lessee's account closed. When my wife called U.S. Bank after discovering the surprise debit, she learned that her check to buy the car had been deposited two days earlier but that a refund for the 37th payment had not yet been set in motion. The refund eventually came in an old-fashioned paper check, which didn't show up until 22 days after U.S. Bank had processed the purchase check. When funds transfer automatically as all parties wish and expect, we are well served. Automatic direct payments like those lease payments are but one small part of the vast electronic payments system in the United States, known as the Automated Clearing House network. Direct deposits are another part of the system - and a wonderful invention indeed. A system that brings money automatically into an individual's account is efficient, and a vast improvement over the time when banks would lock up the funds for three to five days. But when the money moves in the other direction and goes out as a direct payment - again, automatically - the door is opened to potential problems. ... ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 12:45:22 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <> To: Subject: Phoning Home: The $32.39 Surprise Message-ID: <p06240828c6a4ad68d679@[]> July 12, 2009 THE HAGGLER Phoning Home: The $32.39 Surprise By DAVID SEGAL Q. My mother was recently delayed while traveling and, not having her cellphone, called me collect in Ithaca, N.Y., from a pay phone in Newark Liberty International Airport. For a collect call lasting one or two minutes, I was charged $32.39 on my credit card. The company, Legacy LD International, never posted its rates or offered to explain its charges. Its customer service is rude and hostile. Why is an airport allowing it to operate there? The Internet is crawling with similar stories about this company. Would appreciate any help. Rahul Krishnan A. Mr. Krishnan isn't kidding about the vast quantity of Legacy LD-related rage on the Internet. The company, which is based in Cypress, Calif., has generated so much ill will that when you Google its name, the first link is the collected fulminations of customers on a Web site called The complaints are variations on Mr. Krishnan's theme: "I got charged $31.09 for a five minute collect call from my boyfriend at a pay phone from Legacy LD INTL." "Legacy billed me $262.88 for five 3rd party calls ranging up to $11.62 per minute." Etc. Those who demanded an explanation or a refund wound up even angrier. When Mr. Krishnan gave it a shot, he told the Haggler last week, he asked to speak to a supervisor and the customer service rep said: "You can try calling back later. But you'll probably just get me again." The Haggler hears all this and thinks: It is on. But before we commence the Three Stooges-style whoop and slap attack that is Legacy's due, a bit of back story. The company, it turns out, is basically a room full of telephone operators. The phone used by Mr. Krishnan's mother is actually owned by Global Tel Link, which last year won the rights to install and run pay phones in La Guardia, Kennedy and Newark Liberty airports, having submitted a winning bid to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Global then contracted with Legacy to handle operator services, and gets a cut of billing revenue. Which, though dwindling, comes in startlingly large chunks, judged on a dollar-per-minute basis. In 1996, Congress essentially deregulated the price of pay-phone calls, hoping to make this shrinking business a little more enticing. The upshot is that today, making a collect call on a pay phone is like stepping in one of those net traps that ensnare people in every other movie set in a jungle. Dial "0," ask for an operator and, suddenly, you're dangling from a rubber tree. So Legacy is within its rights to charge huge sums. But, seriously, $32 for a quick collect call? And then brush-off rudeness on top of that? Is this how Legacy does business? Initially, the Haggler had a hard time finding out. Calls to the company's media relations guy - yes, the guy whose job it is to return calls like the Haggler's - were not returned. There were a few more tries, and enough time on the line for the Haggler to all but memorize the company's on-hold voiceover patter, which refers unironically to Legacy's "sincere, honest customer support" and "problem-free communication services." Ultimately, the customer service manager, Luis Garcia, got in touch. The Haggler conferenced in Mr. Krishnan, who is 21 and about to start teaching high school chemistry through Teach for America. Mr. Krishnan opened by voicing his frustrations with rather admirable restraint, prompting Mr. Garcia to apologize in the vaguely mechanical tone of man who deals with the livid for a living. But Mr. Garcia also said his records show that the $32 call lasted for nine minutes, not two, and that because Mr. Krishnan has a Canadian phone number, he was charged the international call rate. Mr. Krishnan agreed about the Canadian-ness of his cellphone - he hails from Calgary, Alberta - but he's adamant that he hurried his mother off the line right after she said her flight was delayed. Two minutes, tops. For what it's worth, several of those ranting about Legacy at also cite disputes about the lengths of their calls. We were at an impasse. But after more talking, Mr. Garcia tried his hand at an olive branch by offering to just rip up the Legacy rulebook and, yes, take 50 percent off this $32 bill. That's right, a $16 giveaway. The Haggler suppressed a giggle, and Mr. Krishnan called this gesture insufficient. Mr. Garcia said he could go as far as 75 percent off. Mr. Krishnan sounded less than impressed. Mr. Garcia then said, "Let me see what I can do." After a pause - for what, we know not - he agreed to a total refund. On to the next question: what's up with our two enablers here, Global Tel Link and the Port Authority? Global Tel Link checked records and decided not only that Legacy had charged the correct sum, but that Mr. Krishnan had received a second call that day from Newark airport. (Suffice to say, he neither remembers nor was billed for it.) A spokesman for the Port Authority took a couple days to offer up this cup of weak tea: "The Port Authority is looking into the matter." Fair warning: you're on your own, people, and no matter where you call, or how long you talk, Legacy isn't cheap. Mr. Garcia says a typical five-minute state-to-state collect call using its operators costs about $17. Caller beware. E-mail: Keep it brief and family-friendly. Submissions may be edited for length and clarity. Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 13:10:07 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <> To: Subject: Deregulated phone market has its 'gotcha' moments Message-ID: <p06240829c6a4b2bc1632@[]> Consumer 9.0: Deregulated phone market has its 'gotcha' moments By Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist Posted on Sun, Aug. 2, 2009 It's easy to find examples of deregulation that has helped consumers. Unfortunately, it's also easy to find instances where it seems to have done them harm. Rarely does one case perfectly illustrate both sides of the coin - a good deal and a "gotcha" rolled into one. But so goes the story of Bob and Angelika Egan, a Delran, N.J., couple caught between the rewards and risks of today's mind-boggling market for international phone calls - a category of calls that the United States deregulated in 2001. Angelika was born in Germany, and her elderly mother still lives there. But because of an accident several years ago, Angelika finds it tough to travel back. So, dutiful daughter that she is, she calls her mother regularly - for about 30 to 60 minutes a day. That's where the good news about open markets comes in. Thanks to growing competition that began with the 1980s breakup of the old Ma Bell phone monopoly, the price for international calls has dropped dramatically over the years. Bob, a retired customer-service agent and supervisor at Northwest Airlines Corp., knows his way around a computer. By shopping around on the Internet, he was able to find a way to keep his wife's calls from breaking the bank. He found a dial-around service,, that charged 2 cents a minute for the calls. Rather than dial her mother directly, Angelika dials a domestic toll-free number first, then her mother's number in Berlin. A 60-minute call costs about $1.20. The system works simply, with just one flaw. If Angelika forgets to dial the access code first, her domestic long-distance carrier, Verizon, charges what it calls its "Basic International Rates." Those rates are a little pricier for calls to Germany. OK, a lot pricier: $3.20 a minute. The first time she made the mistake, on a 34-minute call on Christmas Day in 2006, her lapse brought a bill for $109. ... ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 13:10:15 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <> To: Subject: Massachusetts Supreme Court Strikes Class Action Ban, Rejects Texas Law Message-ID: <p06240825c6a4aa5c1fb3@[]> Massachusetts Supreme Court Strikes Class Action Ban, Rejects Texas Law by Deepak Gupta Tuesday, July 07, 2009 Just before the holiday weekend, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion in Feeney v. Dell Inc., holding that a statutory right to participate in class action lawsuits may not be be foreclosed by a provision in a consumer contract compelling individual arbitration. The court reached that conclusion based not on unconscionabilty doctrine, but on Massachusetts public policy. It emphasized the strong state policy in favor of class actions and relied on cases such as the First Circuit's decision in Kristian v. Comcast Corp., 446 F.3d 25, 54 (1st Cir. 2006), which reject class action bans because of their interference with consumers' ability to vindicate statutory rights: "Allowing companies that do business in Massachusetts, with its strong commitment to consumer protection legislation, to insulate themselves from small value consumer claims creates the potential for countless customers to be without an effective method to vindicate their statutory rights, a result clearly at odds with our public policy." The decision joins the rest of the state and federal appellate courts in holding that the Federal Arbitration Act does not preempt its holding, relying on the analysis of the Ninth Circuit and the Illinois Supreme Court. The Feeney opinion is also noteworthy for its choice-of-law analysis. The Dell contract at issue specified that Texas law--which appears to allow class action bans--would apply. The court held that Massachusetts' fundamental policy in favor of class actions for small-value consumer claims outweighed Texas's interest in blocking consumers' access to the courthouse doors. As the court put it, "[w]e likewise have little trouble concluding that the interest embodied in this policy--the protection of large classes of consumers and the deterring of corporate wrongdoing--is materially greater than Texas's interest, which the defendants identify as 'minimizing its companies' legal expense.'" Massachusetts joins a growing chorus of courts that reject corporate efforts to use choice-of-law clauses to enforce otherwise impermissible class bans. Another recent example of this trend is the Third Circuit's decision in Homa v. American Express. ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 13:35:31 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <> To: Subject: An Interview With David Vladeck of the F.T.C. Message-ID: <p0624082ec6a4b8a0778d@[]> An Interview With David Vladeck of the F.T.C. By THE EDITORS AUGUST 5, 2009, 2:24 PM David Vladeck, the new head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, met with reporter Stephanie Clifford on Monday to discuss his plans for the post. Here's more on Mr. Vladeck's views on privacy. ... ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 13:35:31 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <> To: Subject: Fresh Views at Agency Overseeing Online Ads Message-ID: <p0624082fc6a4b9399b70@[]> Fresh Views at Agency Overseeing Online Ads By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD August 5, 2009 Most of the online world is based on a simple, if unarticulated, agreement: consumers browse Web sites free, and in return, they give up data - like their gender or income level - which the sites use to aim their advertisements. The new head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, David C. Vladeck, says it is time for that to change. In an interview, Mr. Vladeck outlined plans that could upset the online advertising ecosystem. Privacy policies have become useless, the commission's standards for the cases it reviews are too narrow, and some online tracking is "Orwellian," Mr. Vladeck said. After eight years of what privacy advocates and the industry saw as a relatively pro-business commission, Mr. Vladeck, has made a splash. In June, the commission settled a case with Sears that was a warning shot to companies that thought their privacy policies protected them. In just over six weeks on the job, he has asked Congress for a bigger budget and for a streamlined way to create regulations. And he said he would hire technologists to help analyze online marketers' tracking. ... ***** Moderator's Note ***** As I've said before, the Internet users who participate in social-networking sites, text-messaging sites, etc. are giving up something that they didn't even know they had, and they're going to regret it soon. The social maps being constructed by major marketing research firms allow salesmen to jump over the last wall of privacy that surrounds pre-Internet Americans: they will soon be able to get a printout that tells them the names of your friends. If a salesman calls me and says I need life insurance, it's a 50/50 bet whether I'll listen to his shpiel and then ask why he doesn't respect the do-not-call list, or if I'll just push one of the touch-tone buttons while I hang the phone up. However, the odds are good that if he calls me and mentions the name of one of my friends, that I'll give him that all-important sixty seconds he needs to make his pitch and set his hook, and now, or very soon, he'll have a long list of names to drop. This is not new: charitable organizations have been using 'local' fundraisers for years, involving well-meaning busybodies who call their friends, their neighbors, and their cow-orkers to push the worthy-cause-du-jour. The victims don't want to offend, and even if they don't choose to participate, the charity hasn't lost anything they were ever going to get by another means. What is different with the Internet is the scale, and what it can deliver as targets for the pitchmen: the victims are tweenty-somethings(TM) who don't have enough life-experience to spot a pirate on the horizon. These new-to-the-market lambs are, by sharing personal information online, lining up for shearing as they prepare for the biggest buying spree of their lives - their first house, their first car, their first health-care choice, their first hospital stay, their first insurance contract, their first chimney cleaning, their first offer of eternal rest, their first swimming pool, their first roof repair, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. That's the funny thing about privacy: we don't miss it until it's gone. Bill Horne Copyright (C) 2009 E.W. Horne. All rights reserved. ------------------------------ Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009 13:39:37 -0400 From: Monty Solomon <> To: Subject: And You Thought a Prescription Was Private Message-ID: <p06240831c6a4ba12ce2c@[]> And You Thought a Prescription Was Private By MILT FREUDENHEIM August 9, 2009 MORE than 10 years after she tried without success to have a baby, Marcy Campbell Krinsk is still receiving painful reminders in her mail. The ads and promotions started after she bought fertility drugs at a pharmacy in San Diego. Marketers got hold of her name, and she found coupons and samples in her mail that shadowed the growth of an imaginary child - at first, for Pampers and baby formula, then for discounts on family photos, and all the way through the years to gifts suitable for an elementary school graduate. "I had three different in vitro procedures," said Ms. Krinsk, now 55, a former telecommunications executive who lives with her husband in San Diego. "To just go to the mailbox and get that stuff, time after time after time, it was just awful." Like many other people, Ms. Krinsk thought that her prescription information was private. But in fact, prescriptions, and all the information on them - including not only the name and dosage of the drug and the name and address of the doctor, but also the patient's address and Social Security number - are a commodity bought and sold in a murky marketplace, often without the patients' knowledge or permission. That may change if some little-noted protections from the Obama administration are strictly enforced. The federal stimulus law enacted in February prohibits in most cases the sale of personal health information, with a few exceptions for research and public health measures like tracking flu epidemics. It also tightens rules for telling patients when hackers or health care workers have stolen their Social Security numbers or medical information, as happened to Britney Spears, Maria Shriver and Farrah Fawcett before she died in June. ... ------------------------------ TELECOM Digest is an electronic journal devoted mostly to telecom- munications topics. It is circulated anywhere there is email, in addition to Usenet, where it appears as the moderated newsgroup 'comp.dcom.telecom'. TELECOM Digest is a not-for-profit, mostly non-commercial educational service offered to the Internet by Patrick Townson. All the contents of the Digest are compilation-copyrighted. You may reprint articles in some other media on an occasional basis, but please attribute my work and that of the original author. The Telecom Digest is currently being moderated by Bill Horne while Pat Townson recovers from a stroke. Contact information: Bill Horne Telecom Digest 43 Deerfield Road Sharon MA 02067-2301 781-784-7287 bill at horne dot net Subscribe: telecom Unsubscribe: telecom This Digest is the oldest continuing e-journal about telecomm- unications on the Internet, having been founded in August, 1981 and published continuously since then. Our archives are available for your review/research. We believe we are the oldest e-zine/mailing list on the internet in any category! URL information: Copyright (C) 2009 TELECOM Digest. All rights reserved. Our attorney is Bill Levant, of Blue Bell, PA. ************************ --------------------------------------------------------------- Finally, the Digest is funded by gifts from generous readers such as yourself who provide funding in amounts deemed appropriate. Your help is important and appreciated. A suggested donation of fifty dollars per year per reader is considered appropriate. See our address above. Please make at least a single donation to cover the cost of processing your name to the mailing list. All opinions expressed herein are deemed to be those of the author. Any organizations listed are for identification purposes only and messages should not be considered any official expression by the organization. End of The Telecom digest (7 messages) ******************************

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