EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine - When Sandra Rhoda opened her mail this week and found a new FairPoint calling card, she wondered just how much using it would cost her.
The answer: more than she wants to pay.
“I called the number on the back of the letter and & a man said there would be a 75-cents-a-minute rate,” Rhoda said.
After the shock wore off a little, she decided to make a few calls — not with the new card — to other company officials, state consumer advocates, then to the Bangor Daily News.
“It seemed unfair,” she said, noting she has bought prepaid calling cards that have a rate of 3 cents a minute.
FairPoint officials said the new calling cards were issued to approximately 400,000 customers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, to replace Verizon calling cards as part of the corporate transition expected to be completed in November.
“When we do the changeover, those [Verizon] cards will go away,” FairPoint spokesman Jeff Nevins said Thursday. “We didn’ t want people to be caught without a card. The last thing we wanted was someone holding on to their old Verizon calling card & to find out their card had been canceled.”
The customer calling cards, which charge calls made from other phone lines to the customer’ s home phone line, typically are used only during emergencies, while people are traveling or when other options are not available, Nevins said.
The cards are activated only when used, he said.
He said the 75-cents-a-minute rate quoted to Rhoda and a BDN reporter is not accurate.
“There is a variety of rates & that go from as little as 10 cents a minute to a high of, in Maine, to 58 cents a minute,” Nevins said.
However, if people use a pay phone to make a call using the FairPoint calling cards, they will be charged a 50-cent surcharge for each call, on top of the per-minute rate, he said.
A woman who answered the 877 number listed on the back of the FairPoint letter gave the higher figure.
“It is 75 cents unless you have a plan” that provides a lower rate, she said. She then referred all questions to company headquarters.
She did add, and Nevins confirmed, that “there is no cost with the calling card, unless [it’ s] used.”
“If the customer said, ‘ I don’ t want it. I don’ t need it,’ get rid of it,” Nevins said.
Rhoda did just that when she cut the cards to pieces.