Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), Chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee, announced that legislation that he sponsored in the Senate which will protect Internet users from undisclosed charges has been signed into law. The legislation will require all Internet service providers to warn subscribers of the possibility of long distance charges involved with the providers’ access phone numbers.
"The Internet is one of the greatest innovations of the last quarter century and it allows for access to a great range of information. This ability should permit more informed decision making by consumers, but ironically, it is the cost of the Internet that has been hidden from many consumers," stated Senator Fuschillo. "This lack of information has led to some excessive charges."
These charges have been incurred by Internet customers who utilize dial-up access and who may have mistakenly assumed that the access number they use was a local number. In some cases, these charges have led to phone bills of hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Under the legislation sponsored by Senator Fuschillo, all web service providers who provide access numbers must prominently post a warning that some of the numbers may cause the subscriber to incur long distance charges. This warning must be conspicuously posted on every page on which Internet access service numbers are available.
The Attorney General of New York State receives numerous complaints every year regarding these bills and has been successful in getting some providers to voluntarily supply a warning. This legislation will require all providers to follow suit and to notify their subscribers of the possibility of extra charges.
"This new consumer protection will allow Internet subscribers to know how much they will have to pay, know the terms of that service anddecide for themselves if they want to make that choice," said Senator Fuschillo. "The power should be in the hands of the consumer and this law protects their right to know. This legislation makes certain that people know what they are paying for and that the choice is theirs to make."
If you are uncertain whether your Internet access phone number is within your local calling plan, you should contact your phone company. Even if the access number you use is in the same area code or regional area, it may not be in your local calling plan and could cost more. Many Internet providers offer multiple access numbers and you may be able to switch to one inside your local calling plan.
This consumer protection will be in effect in October of this year.