PUC urges businesses to check their phone bills

PUC urges businesses to check their phone bills The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission wants companies to check their phone records for charges related to operator assisted phone calls.

Several business owners have contacted the PUC about charges that occurred during late October 2002 but are just showing up now. It is reported that calls were placed from a New Mexico area code (505) to the South Dakota companies.

The bills state that this is a Final Notice bill that must be paid by the end of this month. Typically, the phone bill seeks a payment of approximately $30 for a three-minute call. The billing is separate from a company's normal monthly phone bill. In some cases, the business was not open on the day that the call is said to have occurred. All of the suspect calls occurred between 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

"If you dispute the charge, we advise you to contact the company, the PUC at 1-800-332-1782, and to not pay the bill," says Bob Sahr, chairman of the PUC. "Unfortunately, people often just pay these sorts of charges out of oversight, frustration or confusion."

"The PUC can help you to find out who the company is and to receive fair compensation for a bill that may be in error," adds Vice Chairman Gary Hanson. "We want businesses to contact us so that we can provide them with protection."

These billing practices mirror other telephone billing scams seen by South Dakota businesses and consumers. South Dakota companies and consumer need to be extra diligent when reviewing bills for payment. The PUC advises business owners to talk with their employees about the proper procedure for accepting or denying collect calls.

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