ITA DRAFTS GUIDELINES FOR PHONE CARDS

WASHINGTON -- The International Telecard Association here has drafted a set of recommended industry guidelines for prepaid phone cards that it anticipates will become the basis for any card regulation by states.The guidelines spell out what information must be available to the card user both before and after purchase or receipt and also set mandatory customer service levels.The ITA recommends that

WASHINGTON -- The International Telecard Association here has drafted a set of recommended industry guidelines for prepaid phone cards that it anticipates will become the basis for any card regulation by states.

The guidelines spell out what information must be available to the card user both before and after purchase or receipt and also set mandatory customer service levels.

The ITA recommends that the following information be printed on prepaid phone cards:

The name of the tariffed entity (the company responsible for the service).

The domestic rate, or a way to calculate the domestic cost per minute, plus all applicable surcharges, taxes and any other relevant variable.

An expiration date or expiration policy. "If an expiration policy is not disclosed, the card is considered live indefinitely," the proposed guidelines state.

Clear labeling indicating whether a card is produced as a sample, specimen or print proof, or otherwise voided, so it is clear such a card is not live. "If a card is not disclosed as a non-operative card, the card is considered live," say the guidelines.

A domestic toll-free customer service number.

In addition to that information on the card, the proposed guidelines recommend round-the-clock customer service, specifying that live operator assistance be available.

The customer service facility must be able to resolve issues concerning the value of time left within 24 hours, be able to restore telephone service to a card user, and provide an average speed of answer of more than 80% of calls in less than 20 seconds.

In addition to those "mandatory" standards, the proposed ITA guidelines suggest voluntary guidelines for companies to ensure high-quality service, including a number of equipment capability specifications.

For information about the ITA guidelines, check the association's Internet site, www.telecard.org.