1 in 10 phone cards, surprisingly, don't work say Ofcom

12 January 2011

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Have you seen those international phone cards that get sold in newsagents or sometimes, on the street by shivering blokes in branded caps? Well, you'll be staggered to find that some of them are as dodgy as you thought they probably were in the first place.

In fact, one in ten of these international calling cards fails to work, even when a customer alerts the company to the problem. Shoddy.

And so, Ofcom is on the case now and having a crackdown on the advertising and sale of these cards. There's a big enough market for them too, with roughly five million people in the UK using them, spending an average of £13 a month on them. For the most part, they are bought by people from immigrant communities and used (when they work) to make cheap international calls to people back home.

If you wonder how they work, the card gives a customer a PIN code which enables you to use the service via an access number. Ofcom have been investigating the companies that make them and have found that duff cards were rife, even those bought from places like the Post Office and Tesco.

Ofcom found that the cards bought from iCard, Lycatel and Nowtel provided less of the minutes promised in advertising. Some companies have been accused of hiding charges and exaggerating the number of minutes that customers expect to receive after reading the advertising.

Bad form really, especially given that these cards are used primarily by people who don't have English as a first language.

TOPICS:   Mobile


  • bob
    Apart from illegal immigrants, does anyone buy these cards?
  • gsrfd
    Legal immigrants bob People with relatives working abroad
  • Felacio N.
    Spot the Daily Mail reader.
  • Richard B.
    My Virgin phone cards never worked too well
  • Carl
    "Nowt" el
  • Paul C.
    I never seemed to have an issue. They were a useful tool back in 2003 for me when I was making phonecalls to my (then) girlfriend who was in LA. I compared some of the astronomical prices that BT quoted and my BT Cellnet really wasn't an option at the time. With the advent of Skype and Viber (iphone app) - surely the days of these are numbered?
  • Smin
    "With the advent of Skype and Viber (iphone app) – surely the days of these are numbered?" Only for people with decent data plans and excellent 3G data service, or home broadband - not everyone has these. That said, a video call using PC is oftena better experience than a low-bandwith voice call over one of these services so as broadband penetration increases...

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