Ofcom research into international calling cards has revealed consumers are often confused about charges and terms and conditions.
According to Ofcom, more than five million UK adults use international calling cards. On average, each user will spend £13 a month on calls, creating a market that is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year.
As a result of the research, Ofcom has opened a monitoring and enforcement programme to look into the terms and conditions of these cards and how they are advertised.
International calling cards research
Ofcom found that 10% of newly purchased cards could not be activated at all and customer services could not resolve this satisfactorily.
Overall, actual call minutes, once charges have been applied, were 28% of the number of minutes advertised. ICard, Lycatel and Nowtel provided a quarter or less of the minutes promised in advertising. Connect, The Post Office and Tesco came out better, with the number of actual minutes generally matched advertising claims.
Ofcom also found that a quarter of landline-to-landline calls were subject to early disconnections not initiated by the caller.
Furthermore, Ofcom found that terms and conditions were available and legible at the point of sale for just 5% of cards purchased in-store. It also found that exact call charges and the terms and conditions of each call are often extremely complex and difficult to interpret.
Ofcom looked at cards provided by the following companies: The Post Office, IDT, Tesco, Connect, Nobel, Story, Nowtel, Lycatel and iCard. Research was carried out between May and July 2010.
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