Who says creativity in billing is dead?  ‘Creative pricing’ strategies uncovered by Australia’s consumer watchdog Choice, has put paid to that.

Not surprisingly, I guess, a number of international phone card operators have been found guilty of hitting consumers with extra and undisclosed fees and surcharges. After attracting prospective customers with what appear to be incredibly low international call rates they quietly slip in service or disconnection fees without informing their customers beforehand.

Some of the charges are remarkably devious.  One example is a $10 value card which includes an 80 cent surcharge after four minutes of use and another 50 cent ‘service fee’ every two days, even if no calls are made!

Lime Telecom’s ‘Ezy2Call’ call was found guilty of misleading UK callers over its 25 cents per minute rate. Choice said the card’s charges included a disconnection fee of 15 cents for every call lasting more than five minutes – a condition which could only be found on the company’s website. The same card also included the condition that each call be ‘billed with an additional 300 seconds on top of actual duration’ – without offering any reason!  How creative is that?

Spokesperson Christopher Zinn, from Australia’s consumer watchdog Choice, said, “it’s as if some of these companies have a competition going to see who can come up with the most unwarranted charges possible and then give them strange names so they can advertise they have no connection fees.”

And before I receive a rash of responses about Australia’s criminal heritage from UK readers I should mention that these activities are occurring worldwide, including the UK, and that consumers need to be made aware of them.