CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
H.R. 3993 is expected to be considered on the floor of the House on Wednesday, June 23, 2010, under a motion to suspend the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote for passage. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) on November 3, 2009.
H.R. 3993 would establish requirements for information that must be displayed on prepaid telephone calling cards, their packaging, and in advertisements for the cards. The bill would require the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to develop regulations that would specify the information to be displayed, including the company name, the number of minutes available, the dollar amount of the card, the expiration date, and any fees, charges, or limitations associated with the card.
The bill would allow state attorneys general, utility commissions and consumer protection agencies to bring civil action on behalf of state residents that were threatened or adversely affected by any person in a practice that is prohibited under this bill. H.R. 3993 would establish that the regulations enacted related to this bill would pre-empt any similar state laws.
Finally, within three years of enactment, the FTC and the Government Accountability Office would be required to report on studies on the business practices of the calling card industry and the effectiveness of the disclosures required by the legislation.
Prepaid calling cards allow consumers to make phone calls from anywhere in the U.S. without committing to a long-term phone service contract. Recent reports and studies indicate that consumers spend roughly $4 billion per year on calling cards. The Federal Trade Commission has reported that consumer complaints concerning various hidden charges, which can reduce the number of advertised minutes available for phone call usage, are common.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the bill would cost about $1 million over five years, assuming appropriations of the necessary amounts.