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July 1997 Vol. 23, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Cozumel Warning: Phony Phones

from the July, 1997 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

When D. V. (Austin, Texas) returned from a stay at Galapago Inn last fall, he was met with a $128 phone bill for a brief call he had made home from the Inn.

Dr. Daniel Spitzer called home in February from the same phone booth at Galapago Inn (since renamed SCUBA Club Galapago). He thought he was using his calling card, but found out later that he was charged $22 for the first minute and $6.50 per minute thereafter by the long-distance carrier, Capital Network Mexico S. A. de C. V. International.

To call from Cozumel to Austin using MCI would cost around a dollar a minute during prime time, only 70 cents per minute on weekends and after hours. However, privately owned pay phones and hotel phone networks are in Mexico generally are not connected to U.S. long-distance providers such as Sprint, AT&T, or MCI.

To avoid outrageous charges (more than 20 times what they should be), always make sure who the long distance carrier is before making a call. Contact your long distance carrier before you travel to find out the local number to dial from your destination, then use its credit card. This is the easiest and cheapest way and numbers are available in every country. According to Consumer Action, a group based in San Francisco and Los Angeles, pay phones in Mexico owned by Ladatel (usually marked on the phone booth) will accept access codes for the largest U.S. longdistance carriers.

If you are a victim, contact the carrier billing you for the call. The name and phone number of the company should appear on your bill. Ask that the excessive charges be adjusted to reflect what you would have paid if you had used your preferred carrier. If that doesn't work, call your local phone company ask it to intervene on your behalf.

J. Q.

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