The cards are mostly used by the UK’s immigrant population deficient to make cheap overseas calls, with more than five one thousand thousand adults spending an average of £13 per month on calls.
Communicating industry regulator Ofcom launched the new broadcast into the advertisement and sale of international calling cards after research bore witness consumers were often confused about the charges and terms and checks.
The watchdog began exploring the cards in May 2010 and found 10% of cards could not be activated at all and buyer services could not resolve this satisfactorily. Overall actual minutes of calls, once accusations were applied, were 28% of the advertised minutes and varied importantly between companions and brands.
An Ofcom spokesman said: “Our enquiry into the international calling card market has revealed a huge disagreement between the amount of minutes some companies promoted and the actual minutes they delivered. On average, clients were being short-changed by 72% and blinded by complex and often hard-to-find terms and checks.”
The research looked at cards added by The Post Office, IDT, Tesco, Connect, Nobel, Story, Nowtel, Lycatel and iCard.
iCard, Lycatel and Nowtel allowed a quarter or less of the minutes promised in ad, Ofcom said. The number of actual minutes provided by associate, The Post Office and Tesco generally matched advert claims.
IDT Crazy outdid advertised claims and provided more hours on calls than they advertised.
Researchers also found conditions and conditions were available and clean at the point of sale for only 5% of cards purchased in-store. Terms, checks and exact charges on some cards were “extremely analyzable in many cases and difficult to construe (even where English is the first language of the consumer)”.
In September 2010, Ofcom acceptable a written undertaking from Lycatel to make a number of changes to its terms and ad, ensuring its customers have accurate information when buying their cards. The regulator has since said it is satisfied Lycatel is complying with the undertaking.