Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia

Pay-Per-Call Services Act

§ 59.1-429. Definitions

As used in this chapter:

"Division" means the Division of Consumer Counsel in the Department of Law.

"Information provider" means any person providing pay-per-call services.

"Long distance carrier" means any interexchange telephone company providing services within the Commonwealth.

"Pay-per-call service" means any passive, interactive, polling, conference, or other similar audiotext service that is accessed by telephone, through a 900 number exchange or otherwise, and generates a service-related fee billed to a telephone customer.

"Telephone company" means a certificated local exchange telephone company which owns, manages, or controls any plant or equipment or any part of a plant or equipment within the Commonwealth for the conveyance of telephone messages, either directly or indirectly.

1991, cc. 608, 630; 2012, cc. 803, 835.

§ 59.1-430. Required disclosures

A. Every pay-per-call service advertisement or solicitation shall disclose (i) that a fee in excess of applicable telephone company or long distance carrier charges, if any, is charged for calls to the telephone number provided; (ii) the per-minute or flat-rate charges for the calls; (iii) the average length of call, measured in minutes, required to receive the service; (iv) whether additional calls to other pay-per-call services are required to obtain the full benefit of the service; and (v) the information provider's name, business address, and business telephone number.

In television advertisements, the price disclosure shall be preceded by a dollar sign, stated in arabic numerals, positioned in the lower portion of the television screen in letters large enough to be easily read by viewers and displayed during the entire time the telephone number is displayed. In written materials, the cost of the call shall be printed in ten-point bold-faced type immediately adjacent to the pay-per-call service telephone number.

B. The disclosures required by subsection A of this section shall be conspicuously displayed in a manner reasonably intended to furnish advance notice of the pay-per-call service's total cost.

C. Every information provider shall disclose to the customer at the beginning of each call for which pay-per-call charges are incurred the per-minute or flat-rate charges for the pay-per-call service if (i) the per-minute rate charged is two dollars or more; (ii) the flat-rate charge is five dollars or more; or (iii) the pay-per-call service is intended for children under the age of twelve, regardless of the amount charged. In addition, pay-per-call services intended for children under the age of twelve shall also include an introductory statement that children should obtain prior parental approval before calling the service. The information provider shall also provide a delayed timing of information charges.

D. Every information provider shall provide a period of a minimum of twelve seconds for a delayed timing of information charges and price disclosure message. If the delayed timing period is exceeded, a consumer shall be billed from the time of the initial connection, and transport charges shall be billed to the information provider from the time of the initial connection. If the consumer disconnects the call within the delayed timing period, no information charge shall be billed to the caller.

During the delayed timing period, the information provider shall inform the consumer of any information required by subsection C of this section and of all of the following: (i) the name of the programs; (ii) the date the information was recorded, if the information is a recorded message; and (iii) that if the caller disconnects the call within the delayed timing period, the consumer will not be charged for the call.

1991, cc. 608, 630; 1992, c. 284.

§ 59.1-431. Telephone company and long distance carrier duties

Every telephone company and long distance carrier shall furnish the following information on any telephone customer's bill that contains charges for pay-per-call services: (i) the pay-per-call number called; (ii) the date, time, and length of the call; and (iii) the amount charged.

1991, cc. 608, 630.

§ 59.1-432. Regulations

The Division is authorized to prescribe reasonable regulations in order to implement provisions in this chapter relating to pay-per-call service advertising or solicitation. These regulations shall be adopted, amended, or repealed in accordance with the Administrative Process Act (§ 2.2-4000 et seq.).

1991, cc. 608, 630; 2012, cc. 803, 835.

§ 59.1-433. Investigations

A. The Division may, with respect to pay-per-call service advertising or solicitation:

1. Make necessary public and private investigations within or without this Commonwealth to determine whether any person has violated the provisions of this chapter, or any rule, regulation, or order issued pursuant to this chapter;

2. Require or permit any person to file a statement in writing, under oath or otherwise as the Division determines, as to all facts and circumstances concerning the matter under investigation; and

3. Administer oaths or affirmations, and upon such motion or upon request of any party, may subpoena witnesses, compel their attendance, take evidence, and require the production of any matter that is relevant to the investigation, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of relevant facts, or any other matter reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of material evidence.

B. Any proceeding or hearing of the Division pursuant to this chapter, in which witnesses are subpoenaed and their attendance required for evidence to be taken, or any matter is to be produced to ascertain material evidence, shall take place within the City of Richmond.

C. If any person fails to obey a subpoena or to answer questions propounded by the Division and upon reasonable notice to all persons affected thereby, the Division may apply to the Circuit Court of the City of Richmond for an order compelling compliance.

1991, cc. 608, 630.

§ 59.1-434. Enforcement; penalties

Any violation of this chapter shall constitute a prohibited practice under the provisions of § 59.1-200 and shall be subject to any and all of the enforcement provisions of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act (§ 59.1-196 et seq.) of this title.

1991, cc. 608, 630.