The company says it expects to recover
the investment by increased inmate pay calls
Global Tel*Link (GTL) has misled customers to pay in advance if they want to continue receiving collect calls from inmates in prison, a San Quentin News investigation has discovered.
This was accomplished by notifying customers that they must subscribe to GTL’s prepaid service, Advance Pay account. The plan was contained in a form letter mailed Oct. 26 to GTL customers who were currently receiving inmate collect calls made from state prison.
The letter stated that effective Nov. 26, 2012 “the mechanism used for your Global Tel*Link Direct Billed account will no longer be in operation.”
The letter gives the impression that a change in service is mandatory.
Prisoners and called parties have complained. The letter said, “You must establish an Advance Pay account between Nov. 15 and Nov. 25, 2012 in order to avoid an interruption in service.”
Late last year, after contacting the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), sending unanswered e-mails to GTL, and searching the Internet, the San Quentin News obtained a copy of GTL’s tariff to provide prison pay phone service.
GTL’s tariff filed with the CPUC reveals contradictory information from what is printed in its form letter to customers. For example, customers have the option to remain on their existing service, Direct Billed account, if they choose to, according to the language in the tariff.
GTL’s customer service department was contacted by the newspaper on March 22 in order to obtain more information. A GTL representative (Yolanda) referred the call to the company’s escalation desk (Daniel) who said, “We don’t answer questions.”
The reporter was advised to contact GTL’s legal department (Andrea Rivera at gtl.net) for clarification on whether customers are allowed to remain on their existing service, and if customers would be allowed to switch back to their previous service, without charge. As of the newspaper deadline, no responses have been received after numerous efforts.
One question the newspaper wanted to ask is whether the Advance Pay accounts letter has anything to do with GTL being awarded the contract to provide technology to block inmate use of contraband cell phones in California prisons.
GTL has a contract to install the equipment and to maintain the use of the technology in each of the state’s 33 prisons. The installation cost to GTL is estimated at $33 million dollars. The company says it expects to recover the investment by increased inmate pay calls.
Five times during April, beginning with an “undeliverable” e-mail, the newspaper was referred to customer service with its questions. It was later referred to technical service, and then back to customer service. Information pursued on line www.offenderconnect.com was no help.
Other inconsistent information discovered when comparing GTL’s form letter to its tariff is the amount of the minimum deposit for Advance Pay. The letter said it “allows you to make deposits with a $5 minimum.”
However, according to the tariff, “The minimum amount required to set up the Advance Pay account is $25.”
Some customers, however, continue to utilize the existing Direct Billed account service, while others were unknowingly coaxed to make the change to an Advance Pay account.
According to GTL’s tariff, “In those areas where the company (GTL) does not have a direct billing agreement with the existing local exchange carrier, or upon a customer’s request, the company will set up an Advance Pay account with the called party for payment of collect calls placed from institutions served by Global Tel*Link.”
The tariff also said, “The customer may close the Advance Pay account at any time.” The San Quentin News was unable to ascertain whether GTL’s Direct Billed account service will be discontinued.