The 225-member International Telecard Association has worked hard to promote and protect the industry from unscrupulous practices.
ng for calling-card vendors.
The association is about to launch a national consumer-education program on prepaid phone cards, in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission. The program is designed to advise consumers on what to look for and what questions to ask about prepaid-phone-card products.
Here is what the ITA's executive director had to say about the progress it has made in protecting the industry.
SEGERMARK: The most important factor that makes fraudulent and fly-by-night phone-card companies possible is that entry into this industry is very low cost. You can literally set up a phone company with a personal computer.
We are addressing this by working with regulators and providing consumer-protection education programs, working with the media to explain the story and have provided a consumer hotline.
Voluntary standards are in place. The greater impact will be compulsory standards which will have a seal. We're recommending a seal of approval for member's cards which would constitute a warranty for service of those cards.
We will be able to promote the seal as a guarantee of service that retailers and others can rely on. We hope [the seal] will happen toward the middle of this year.
The association has developed voluntary regulations and we are willing to assist in developing any mandatory regulations.
When a state is considering regulation of prepaid phone cards, it is our intention to protect consumers without placing undue burdens on the industry. Some states have not been enforcing current certification requirements. As a result, some people can feel they are immune from law enforcement.
A diligent buyer might want to get a copy of our industry guidelines to see if any prospective card matches up to what we would recommend. Those guidelines are also available on our web site, http://www.telecard.org. Our web site has been open since December.