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The Vermont Statutes Online

 

Title 9: Commerce and Trade

Chapter 067: PAY-PER-CALL SERVICES

  • § 2501. Definitions

    As used in this chapter:

    (1) "Caller" means a person who accesses a pay-per-call service.

    (2) "Interactive program" means a pay-per-call program that allows callers to choose between options or to communicate with other callers.

    (3) "Pay-per-call service" means any passive, interactive, polling, conference or other similar audiotext service that is accessed through a telephone number and that generates an audiotext service related fee billed to a subscriber. "Pay-per-call service" does not include any conference service the price of which is established pursuant to a tariff approved by a regulatory agency.

    (4) "Advertisements and promotions" include all forms of solicitation directed at prospective callers of pay-per-call services, including mailings and advertisements in newspapers, magazines, on radio and/or television.

    (5) "Sponsor" means an individual, corporation, association, partnership or other entity that sells or offers to sell a pay-per-call service to a person in this State and on whose behalf charges are billed, but shall not include a public utility regulated by the State or the Federal Communications Commission or an interexchange carrier which provides transport or billing and collection services for a pay-per-call service unless the public utility or interexchange carrier actually produces or advertises the pay-per-call service. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2502. Requirements for disclosures in advertisements

    (a) A sponsor shall include in all advertisements or promotions in this State for pay-per-call services the following disclosures in a clear and conspicuous manner:

    (1) an accurate description of the message content and all material terms and conditions associated with the service;

    (2) the total price of the service, in a typeface and size as large and conspicuous as is the number to be called and displayed immediately adjacent to the number to be called, including:

    (A) the initial flat rate charge, if any;

    (B) the per-minute charge, if any;

    (C) the minimum per-call charge, if any;

    (D) any other charges, if any; and

    (E) where charges are assessed based in whole or in part on the length of the call, the average duration of a call to the service, or if the service is less than 24 hours old, a good faith estimate of the average duration based on the average duration of the similar services;

    (3) the sponsor's name, address, and customer service number.

    (b) A sponsor shall include in all advertisements or promotions in this State for pay-per-call services directed at or likely to be of interest to minors, a clear and conspicuous notice that parental consent must be obtained before a minor may dial the number.

    (c) No sponsor may use the word "free" or similar terms to describe the pay-per-call service in any advertisement or promotion in this State. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2503. Requirements for preambles

    A sponsor of pay-per-call services for which the charge to the caller may in any case exceed $2.00 shall commence the service with a disclosure message or "preamble" provided at no charge to the caller, clearly indicating the following information:

    (1) an accurate description of the service;

    (2) the total price of the service, including:

    (A) all per-call charges; and

    (B) if the call is billed on a usage-sensitive basis, all rates by minute or other unit of time, any minimum charges and the total cost for calls to that program if the duration of the program can be determined;

    (3) that billing will commence only after a specific identified event following the disclosure message, such as a signal tone, followed by a reasonable period of time within which the caller may disconnect before that event;

    (4) if the service is directed at or likely to be of interest to children under age 18, a statement that the caller should hang up if parental consent has not been obtained; and

    (5) the legal name of the sponsor of the service. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2504. Bypass mechanisms

    A sponsor may offer a caller the means to bypass the preamble on subsequent calls, provided that the caller is in sole control of that capability, except that any bypass device shall be disabled for a period of 30 days following the effective date of a price increase for the pay-per-call service. A sponsor shall include at the end of the preamble or the end of the program instructions on how to bypass. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2505. Loan and credit card services

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services directly or indirectly purporting to extend callers any form of credit, loan, or charge card unless:

    (1) all advertisements and promotions for the service include a complete and accurate description of all terms, including fees, required purchases, interest rates, minimum account balances or deposits, limitations on usage, and other conditions, limitations, or charges associated therewith;

    (2) the sponsor is authorized to act as an agent in connection with the issuance of the loan, credit, or charge card by an authorized financial institution;

    (3) the sponsor has complied with all applicable State and federal laws relating to the extension of loans, credit, or charge cards; and

    (4) the sponsor provides a full refund to any caller who requests one. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2506. Employment services

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services directly or indirectly offering employment or job-placement related services unless:

    (1) all advertisements and promotions for the service include an accurate description of the material terms and conditions associated with the job or employment opportunities that are the subject of the service, including geographic locations and applicant qualifications;

    (2) for programs where no specific job listings are provided to the caller, but rather the names of companies are listed as potential employers, the sponsor states in all advertising and promotions, and in the program script, that the companies named are only potential employers, who may not have openings at the time the caller contacts them;

    (3) the sponsor removes from the program script job listings that have closed within one day of the closing; and

    (4) the sponsor has complied with all applicable State and federal laws relating to the offering of employment or job-placement services. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2507. Prize award services

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services that involve unsolicited notification to prospective callers that they are entitled to a prize, award, or other thing of value and with respect to which they are requested to access a pay-per-call service unless:

    (1) all advertisements and promotions for such services include:

    (A) an accurate description of all material terms, conditions, and rules regarding the prospective caller's eligibility for the prize or prizes;

    (B) a statement as to whether all prizes will be awarded and the odds of winning each prize;

    (C) the identity and true market value of the prize or prizes to which the caller is entitled, and a complete description of each prize including any related expenses which will be the responsibility of the winner; and

    (D) a description of how to claim the prize without calling the pay-per-call service or incurring any other cost;

    (2) the sponsor provides a full refund to any caller who requests one;

    (3) the identity and value of the prize or prizes is not determined by chance. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2508. Children's program services

    (a) It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services directed at children age 12 or under.

    (b) The advertisement or promotion of pay-per-call services on television during a time slot used by television stations to air programming for children age 12 or under shall give rise to a rebuttable presumption of a violation of this section.

    (c) It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services directed at children under the age of 18 where the service, or any advertisement or promotion for it:

    (1) contains an imperative statement, including language such as "call now" or "you must call";

    (2) contains an embedded message to call other pay-per-call numbers;

    (3) requests that the caller provide his or her name, address, telephone number, or other identifying information;

    (4) requests that the caller make an additional purchase in order for the complete message to be received;

    (5) contains a message soliciting copies of phone bills; or

    (6) requires the viewing of a television program to obtain the complete message.

    (d) It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services directed at children under the age of 18 unless the sponsor provides a full credit upon request, for any call by a child which was not authorized by the child's parent.

    (e) It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services directed at children under the age of 18 for which the total charges per call to the customer exceed $4.00. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2509. Charitable solicitations

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services that involve charitable fundraising either directly or indirectly by solicitation of donations or through the sale of information, goods or services unless:

    (1) all advertisements and promotions for the service include the identity of the nonprofit tax-exempt charity or charitable organization for which the funds are being raised;

    (2) the sponsor gives callers the right to cancel any pledge made by virtue of the telephone call, whether it is characterized as a donation or as the cost of the call itself, and notifies callers of that right as part of the service; and

    (3) the sponsor and charity or charitable organization have complied with all applicable federal and State laws governing charitable fundraising. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2510. Pay-per-call fulfillment services

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services that involve provision of value-added information (not product sales) with a supplemental tangible item sent free of charge to the customer after the completion of the call unless all advertisements and promotions for such services include:

    (1) an 800 number or business name and full address for callers to obtain additional information or to follow up on items not yet received; and

    (2) the true market value of the item to be sent free of charge and a complete and accurate description of the item. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2511. Automatic dialing devices

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to utilize equipment programmed to randomly or sequentially dial telephone numbers to advertise, promote, or initiate pay-per-call services. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2512. Chain referral services

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to sell or offer for sale pay-per-call services that require a caller to access more than one pay-per-call service in order to receive the full benefit of the service. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2513. Automatic billing arrangements

    It shall be an unlawful practice for a sponsor to initiate or make available pay-per-call services which impose a pay-per-call charge on persons as a result of a call placed to them, or which impose a pay-per-call charge on persons who have made a call to regular or noncharged telephone lines, unless the caller initiates a separate call to the pay-per-call service using a telephone number expressly identified by the sponsor as a pay-per-call number. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2514. Billing for pay-per-services; Public Utility Commission authority

    (a) Every local exchange company and interexchange carrier providing billing and collection services for pay-per-call services doing business in this State shall:

    (1) list all charges for pay-per-call services on a separate section of the subscriber telephone bill, which section shall be titled "Pay-Per-Call Services"; and

    (2) state on at least a quarterly basis, through bill inserts or other means reasonably calculated to notify customers, in a clear and conspicuous manner that telephone service will not be disconnected if the subscriber fails to pay for pay-per-call charges.

    (b) Any other entity providing or performing billing and collection services for a pay-per-call service doing business in this State shall:

    (1) comply with the terms of subdivision (a)(1) of this section; and

    (2) ensure that each pay-per-call service section of the consumer's bill, as well as the page containing the amount of the total bill, state in a clear and conspicuous manner that telephone service will not be disconnected if the subscriber fails to pay for pay-per-call charges.

    (c) In addition to its other authority under Title 30, the Public Utility Commission shall have the authority to regulate compliance with this section, and to adopt any other rules to protect consumers that the Commission finds necessary and appropriate, and in accordance with this chapter, including rules concerning periodic notification of the passage of time to a caller while using interactive pay-per-call services, and rules setting specific caps for any type of pay-per-call service. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2; amended 2015, No. 23, § 91.)

  • § 2515. Service agent

    All sponsors who are doing business in this State and whose principal place of business is out-of-state shall establish within the State an authorized agent for service of process. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)

  • § 2516. Violations

    (a) A violation of this chapter is deemed to be a violation of section 2453 of this title, the State's general civil antifraud statute. This section shall not be construed to limit a person's liability under any other law.

    (b) With respect to a pay-per-call service which fails to meet the requirements of this chapter, no sponsor shall:

    (1) bill, cause to bill, collect, or cause to collect from the caller for the service; or

    (2) report any amount due for the service to any consumer reporting agency as defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681a(f).

    (c) The Attorney General has the same authority to make rules, conduct civil investigations, and bring civil actions with respect to acts and practices governed by this chapter as is provided under subchapter 1 of chapter 63 of this title.

    (d) A caller has the same rights with respect to any act or practice governed by this chapter as a consumer has under section 2461 of this title. (Added 1993, No. 99, § 2.)