Robach Announces Passage Of Legislation To Protect Dial-up Internet Consumers

Joseph E. Robach

June 17, 2005

Senator Robach announced that the Senate passed legislation (S.4109) that would ensure that Internet users have adequate warning that some access numbers may involve long-distance phone charges.

"This legislation is a direct result of Rochester residents who unknowingly fell victim to charges when using the Internet" stated Senator Robach.

The Attorney General's office receives many complaints each year from consumers who have incurred what they perceive to be unexpected charges on their long-distance telephone bills for Internet access, often amounting to hundreds, even thousands, of dollars. Recently, for example, approximately 700 consumers in the Rochester area were billed over $200,000 in unexpected Internet access charges in an eight month period.

This bill is intended to provide consumers with information that will alert them to the possibility of long distance charges, so as to help Internet users avoid incurring such additional unexpected expenses. The Attorney General has succeeded in convincing some Internet service provider ("ISP") to voluntarily post a warning, and this proposal would ensure that all Internet customers have equal access to a warning about Internet connection charges.

"As technology continues to grow, we need to make sure that New Yorkers are protected" stated Senator Joseph Robach. "Enacting this legislation will protect New Yorkers from unexpected charges when surfing the net by making dial-up ISPs post a warning on the screen page."

The problem arises when consumers select a dial-up "access number" from a list on a web page provided by the ISP. Some consumers may simply select an access number in their area code or geographic region, assuming that it is on their local calling plan. What many consumers do NOT realize is that numbers in their geographic region or area code are not necessarily "local" numbers for purposes of the charges made by the phone company. In New York State, this is most common in the 716, 518 and 315 (and, less often, 516) area codes.

Senator Robach is a co-sponsor of this legislation. It has also been passed by the Assembly and, now, awaits being sent to the Governor for his signature.