$2 charge for jail calls put on hold

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska said it will investigate consumer complaints about a proposed $2 fee that an Alaska phone company plans to tack onto each local collect call made by inmates at state prisons, jails and halfway houses.

The agency said it received three complaints regarding the fee, which would be billed to people who accept the calls. General Communications Inc. had planned to start charging the fee Monday.

The RCA said it will allow GCI to begin charging the fee in mid-September. However, the company will have to refund the money if the investigation showed the fee is unjustified.

In an order issued Friday, the RCA commissioners said they have “significant doubt” that the $2 fee is reasonable.

One of the complaints came from Fred’s Bail Bonding in Anchorage, which claimed $2-per-call fee will cost Alaska bail bonding agencies roughly $84,000 a year. The bonding agencies typically receive about seven calls per inmate, and they bail out more than 500 inmates per month, according to the company’s Aug. 5 letter to the RCA.

Also, the fee would be harmful to inmates if private attorneys start declining their collect calls and it would create new costs for inmates’ family members, according to the company’s letter.

The RCA scheduled a 9 a.m. hearing Sept. 11 and will accept public comments about the fee until Sept. 29. The hearing will be in the RCA’s East Hearing Room, in the Conoco Phillips building at 701 West Eighth Ave., Suite 300.

source: http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/511507.html

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