Calls To Cell Phones May Cost You Money

Recent developments in the telephone industry may have you paying long distance charges for a call you think is local.  Back in the fall the FCC put new rules in effect that required companies to share number pre-fixes, that's the first three numbers of your phone number. That order was supposed to conserve telephone numbers. What happened, was that it changed who pays for calls.

Prior to the FCC order, which introduced number conservation measures for wireless carriers, wireless compaines purchased BellSouth land-to-mobile reverse toll billing from local phone companies.  This contract gave wireless customers a larger local calling area than the area provided by local telephone companies.  Wirelss companies paid for the toll calls and not the landline customer.

All calls from a BellSouth landline phones to a wireless phone were dialed using seven digits and were reverse billed to the wireless company.  Calls were toll-free to users.

"As a phone consumer I'm ready to go back to letter writing. I'm ready to get rid of my phone, I'm ready to get rid of my e-mail. I'm ready to get rid of all of it," Sheila Robertson said.

Shelia Robertson of Gautier is outraged about the charges on her home phone bill, that she thought were local calls.

"I pay $55 a month for my basic bill, then I have to pay for long distance, and now they're telling me that just because someone has a cell phone, when I call them, I'm going to have to pay an additional charge. That makes no sense whatsoever and it's ludicrous," Robertson said.

Bellsouth regional manager Rick Stewart confirms that land line customers calling a wireless phone may now pay a toll charge for what was previously treated as a local call.

"Land line customers now calling outside their local dialing area, are going to have to dial one, plus the area code. That would be an indication that you might receive a toll charge on their toll bill," Stewart said.

If you're using your land line phone, calls inside your local dialing area are not considered long distance, and you can just dial the seven digit number. As a wireless phone customer if you want to minimize long distance charges on land line customers, you'll need to make sure your phone number prefix corresponds to where you live.

"If you live in Bay Saint Louis you may not want a Pascagoula cell phone number," Stewart said.

There are two things that you as a cell phone customer now have to make certain. First, when your cellular phone sales representative asks you what number you want, make sure the number, is a number that is assigned to your home town. Second, you need to ask your cellphone company if they have any agreements with long distance carriers, so you can warn people who may be calling you from outside your hometown, that they may be charged extra for calling you.

"BellSouth wireline customers calling a wireless number that may be subject to toll charges as a result of this FCC order should receive an intercpt message instruction them to dial "1" or "1 + area code" in order to complete the call.  Residencial customers who believe they have incurred land -to-mobile toll charges in error should call BellSouth's service center at 557-6500 and inquire about bill adjustments," Stewart said.