Cagey Consumer[13k]

For Immediate Release August 31, 1997
For more information, contact Eli Mantel, +1 650-493-7228

Dial-Around Carrier Added to Cagey Consumer Hall of Shame

Anti-fraud web site warns public of "Just Dial" service

Cagey Consumer, a web site designed to educate the public about fraudulent and deceptive businesses practices, today inducted long distance carrier Qwest Communcations into its Hall of Shame.

According to Cagey Consumer publisher Eli Mantel, Qwest Communications has been soliciting consumers through direct mail to use their long distance service called Just Dial 10056, but has not done a good job of prominently disclosing important information about their charges.

Although the disclosure of charges is not as prominent as it ought to be, this does not mean that the rates are not competitive. For instance, customers of Sprint's Dime a Minute program will save at least 12% and possibly as much as 59% by using Qwest's service during times that Sprint's daytime rates are in effect, even if they make only one call through Qwest during the month.

The problem with Qwest's long distance service is not the rates, but the failure to prominently disclose key aspects of those rates. For instance, the rate comparison brochure included in Qwest's mailing repeatedly mentions the 10¢ per minute rate for interstate long distance calls in comparisons of rates charged by AT&T, MCI, Sprint, and other long distance carriers. However, it fails to mention the per-call surcharge that Qwest imposes, except in a footnote on the back page of the brochure.

Although many long distance companies offer simplified rate plans, comparing the different rate plans is anything but simple. A plan with the lowest per-minute rate may have a monthly fee that actually makes it the most expensive, another plan offers billing for time to the next six seconds instead of the next minute, and yet another plan uses different time periods to define when calls are charged at the higher "day" rate. Ultimately, many consumers throw up their hands, unable to make an intelligent choice from among the many plans. The Cagey Consumer web site includes a free, easy-to-use long distance rate calculator that helps consumers choose from rate plans offered by various companies.

The Cagey Consumer web site is hosted on GeoCities at The editor and publisher of Cagey Consumer is Eli Mantel, a computer systems analyst in Palo Alto, California.
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