Child Labor in America: Wood chipper Tied to Teen Death – National Consumers League

by Darlene Adkins, VP for Public Policy at NCL and Coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition

Did you know that one working teen dies, on average, every five days in the United States?

It’s happened again. A young worker’s life has come to a tragically early end because of a deadly workplace accident. North Carolina and federal labor department officials are investigating whether child labor laws were broken in last week’s death of a 17-year-old working with a wood chipper. The young man, Nery Castaneda, became entangled in the wood chipper 3 months into his job, where his assignment was to grind up wooden pallets to make mulch.

Death’s like Nery’s are devastating for the family and heart-wrenching to us child labor advocates, who see the failure of child labor laws to protect working teens as the culprit.

 

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month: Avoid ID Theft Online – National Consumers League

by Susan Grant, Director of NCL’s Fraud Centerphishinginfo.jpg

Everybody knows that it’s important to have a fire extinguisher and an insurance policy to protect their home in case of fire. But not everybody is as aware that they should have certain tools to protect their personal information online. To celebrate National Cyber Security Awareness month this October, we’ve added new information to our www.phishinginfo.org Web site about how to avoid becoming a victim of online identity theft.

Consumers have a lot of options for cyber protection, but it can be confusing. The new information on our site explains how verification engines, security toolbars, and other tools can help to keep your personal information safe and how to find them.

Get the tips here.

Phony Checks Costing Consumers Billions – National Consumers League

fakeckeck_logo_nw.jpg
blog posted by Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director

The National Consumers League is the only consumer group that has a Fraud Center and is actively engaged in battling Internet and telemarketing fraud. This October 3, the Alliance for Consumer Fraud Awareness, of which NCL is a member, launched its “Fakechecks.org” Web site, with press conferences in New York and Washington, D.C.

I spoke at the press conference at the TimesCenter in New York, and the Director of NCL’s Fraud Center, Susan Grant, spoke in Washington, DC at the Press Club. The centerpiece of the campaign is a new NCL Web site, www.fakechecks.org. The Alliance warned consumers that while there are many different ways scammers set up the fake check scheme, there is a single common thread running through them that can enable consumers to identify it as fraud: no one who legitimately wants to give you a check or money order for something would ask you to wire money anywhere in return.

NCL also called on banks to warn their customers that just because the funds are available quickly doesn’t mean that the check is good.

The Alliance announced a new consumer survey found that 35 percent of adult consumers had been presented with a fake check at some point and that 28 percent of those had actually sent money back. Fake check scams tend to cost consumers between $3,000-4,000 each year. Based on these numbers, NCL estimates that the cost of fake check scams to be between $63 and $84 billion each year.

We’ve spotted 6 general categories of fake check scams: work at home, love losses, rental schemes, foreign business offers, sudden riches, and overpayments. The pitches scammers are coming up with are plausible, and the checks are so convincing – it’s no wonder consumers are falling for this! But we hope www.fakechecks.org will help spread the word about these phony checks.

Sally’s Blog: First Week at National Consumers League – National Consumers League

NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg

NCL Executive Director
Sally Greenberg

I kicked off my first week on the job as Executive Director at the National Consumers League with testimony on Monday, October 1 before the Interagency Working Group on Import Safety. This group of federal agencies – 12 of them headed by Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt – came together at the request of President George Bush this summer to assess the government’s response to protecting the public from unsafe imports. (See Leavitt’s blog on the task force.)

NCL touched on three issues: the irony in the history behind American health and safety laws and regulations; the risks of counterfeit drugs; and the relationship between sweatshop-like working conditions in China and the dangers in the products they manufacture.

1) We noted the irony that many American businesses and industries over the years had fought against health and safety laws and regulations but in fact, during the crisis over toy and food safety this past summer, with many consumer products from China and elsewhere proving to be unsafe, “Made in America” has come to mean “made safely and with quality materials that won’t endanger you or your family.”

2) Counterfeit drugs from overseas are a major threat to consumers, and we need all makers of drugs coming into the United States to be made in factories that are FDA-certified. We also recommended that this Working Group encourage consumers to buy only from Internet pharmacies that have undergone third-party certification or something like it, because the risks of buying drugs online are considerable.

3) Citing a report from the NY-based group China Labor Watch, NCL noted that many of the Chinese toy factories are sweatshops that violate Chinese and international labor laws, regularly use child labor, force overtime on their workers, dock workers pay for minor infractions, and in fact resemble sweatshops that existed 100 years ago in the United States. Pictures from those factories also show dirty factories that don’t take precautions to keep workers safe, worker overcrowding, materials piled up on the floors. NCL cited the relationship between factories that make low quality goods and violate safety standards. NCL believes that when factories are forced to open their doors to close inspection and third-party certification for safety, they are likely to improve conditions across the board.

The National Consumers League believes many consumers would be alarmed to know that the toys they buy their children are made under such dismal conditions. NCL encourages “ethical consuming” and will continue to focus on the relationships between the consumer and those who make the products we buy.

Think twice about credit repair offers – National Consumers League

Good credit is important; a bad credit history can impact your ability to get loans, housing, or even a job. But while promises to “fix” bad credit may be tempting, they’re not true – and they may leave you in worse financial shape than when you started.

  • No one can erase negative information if it’s accurate. Only incorrect information can be removed. Accurate information stays on your record for 7 years from the time it’s reported (10 years for bankruptcy). Even information about bills you fell behind on but now are paid will remain on your report for these time periods.
  • Credit repair services can’t ask for payment until they’ve kept their promises. Federal law also requires credit repair services to give you a explanation of your legal rights, a detailed written contract, and three days to cancel (this applies to for-profit services, not to nonprofit organizations, banks and credit unions, or the creditors themselves).
  • You can correct mistakes on your credit report yourself. If you were recently denied credit because of information in your credit report, you have the right to request a free copy. Otherwise there is a small fee, unless your state law provides for one free report a year. It doesn’t cost anything to question or dispute items in your report. Follow the instructions provided by the credit bureau. The major credit bureaus are: Equifax, 800- 685-1111,www.equifax.com; Experian, 800-682-7654, www.experian.com; and TransUnion, 800-916-8800, www.transunion.com. Contact all three, as the information each has may vary.
  • You can add an explanation to your report. If there is a good reason why you weren’t able to pay bills on time (job loss, sudden illness, etc.) or you refused to pay for something because of a legitimate dispute, give the credit bureau a short statement to include in your file.
  • Know that you can’t create a second credit file. Fraudulent companies sometimes offer to provide consumers with different tax identification or social security numbers in order to create a new credit file. This practice, called “file segregation,” is illegal, and it doesn’t work.
  • If you have credit problems, get counseling. Your local Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) can provide advice about how to build a good credit record. The CCCS may also be able to make payment plans with your creditors if you’ve fallen behind. These services are offered for free or at a very low cost. To find the nearest CCCS office, call toll-free, 800-388-2227, or go to www.nfcc.org.

NCL announces DOJ stipend winners to educate seniors – National Consumers League

Under a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance in the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Consumers League was able to award stipends totaling $20,000 to 11 agencies and organizations for a wide variety of projects aimed at educating senior citizens about telemarketing fraud. The stipends were distributed in the spring of 2006. Some programs concluded in the spring 2007, some in the fall, and some are ongoing using other sources of funding.

The experiences of the stipend recipients provide useful guidance for other agencies and organizations that may want to undertake projects to educate people in their communities about telemarketing fraud and other subjects.

Meet the stipend recipients and the programs that earned them such an honor in this report.

OTC pain relievers and pregnancy – National Consumers League

If you are pregnant or breast-feeding, ask your doctor or nurse before taking any medication (OTC or prescription). It is especially important not to use aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium during the last three months of pregnancy unless directed to do so by a doctor, because these medicines may cause problems in the unborn child, or complications during delivery.

Acetaminophen

Acetaminophen has not been shown to cause birth defects or other problems in laboratory studies. However, to be on the safe side, talk to your doctor before taking any OTC medications during pregnancy.

Aspirin

Laboratory studies have found that aspirin can cause birth defects in animals. Do not take aspirin during the last three months of pregnancy unless your doctor has ordered it. Some reports have suggested that too much aspirin use late in pregnancy may cause a decrease in the newborn’s weight and possible death of the fetus or newborn infant. However, the mothers in these reports had been taking much larger amounts of aspirin than are usually recommended.

Studies of mothers taking aspirin in the doses that are usually recommended did not show these unwanted effects, but there is a chance that regular use of aspirin late in pregnancy may cause unwanted effects on the heart or blood flow of the fetus and newborn infant. Use of aspirin during the last two weeks of pregnancy may cause bleeding problems in the fetus before or during delivery, or in the newborn infant. Also, too much use of aspirin during the last three months of pregnancy may increase the length of pregnancy, prolong labor, cause other problems during delivery, or cause severe bleeding in the mother before, during, or after delivery.

Ibuprofen and Naproxen Sodium

FDA-approved labeling for both ibuprofen products and naproxen sodium products contain the same warning, which states that women should not take these medications during the last three months of pregnancy (unless directed to do so by a doctor), because they may cause problems in the unborn child or complications during delivery.

Answers to your questions about OTC painkillers – National Consumers League

Every day millions of consumers turn to over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications for temporary relief of pain from headaches, colds, muscular ache, and arthritis, and to reduce fever. While these medications are largely safe when taken according to label directions, there are risks when taking any drug. Just because a medication is available on the shelf of your local grocery or discount store does not make it any safer than a drug that has been prescribed by your doctor.

Are all OTC pain medications the same?

No. Many different types of pain medications, or analgesics, are available without a prescription. Two common types of OTC analgesics are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs, and acetaminophen.

  • NSAIDs, or anti-inflammatories, reduce inflammation caused by injury or rheumatoid arthritis. People use them to stop the pain caused by muscular aches, arthritis, headaches, menstrual cramps, and other minor aches and pains. Anti-inflammatories available over-the-counter, or without a prescription, include aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn). These products work by blocking the production of the enzyme COX. There are two forms of the COX enzyme: COX-1 protects the stomach and kidneys, and COX-2 is responsible for inflammation. NSAIDs block the production of both COX enzymes. The stomach irritation and ulcers that can occur with the use of these anti-inflammatories are the result of blocking the production of the stomach-protecting enzyme.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is used to relieve pain and reduce fever. Because it works mostly on the central nervous system and is not an anti-inflammatory, it does not reduce the swelling or stiffness caused by an injury or rheumatoid arthritis. Acetaminophen is generally less irritating to the stomach than other OTC pain relievers, but may cause liver problems when taken with alcohol or when fasting.

How do I know which OTC pain medication is right for me?

The right painkiller depends on what type of pain you want to relieve and your personal risk factors.

  • If you suffer from arthritis or athletic injuries, anti-inflammatories can reduce the inflammation, but regular use may cause stomach problems or ulcers. Those especially at risk include people over 65 years old, those with a history of ulcers, and those taking steroids or blood thinners.
  • For reduction of fever and relief of pain, acetaminophen, while generally easier on the stomach than other OTC pain medications, has its own risks. Daily use for a long period of time (over a year) may increase the chances of kidney damage. And taking acetaminophen when fasting or with alcohol, even moderate amounts, may cause serious liver problems.
  • If you have a history of kidney, liver or stomach problems (including ulcers), or are allergic to certain pain medications, you should always consult your doctor before taking any type of pain medication. If you take an OTC pain medication for an extended period of time (more than 10 days), you should discuss with your doctor how to best manage your pain.
  • If you are pregnant or nursing, talk to a health professional before using any OTC pain reliever. It is especially important not to take an NSAID during the last three months of pregnancy because it may cause problems for the unborn child.

I heard that NSAIDs relieve arthritis pain. Is it safe for me to take a nonprescription NSAID every day?

Over 14 million arthritis suffers take high doses of aspirin and other NSAIDs, or anti-inflammatories, to ease their symptoms. But continuous use of these drugs can increase the risk of stomach problems. Recent medical studies show that use of OTC NSAIDs increases the risk of stomach bleeding by as much as two to three times. Stomach bleeding caused by NSAIDs is now recognized as the most common serious drug reaction and accounts for as many as 16,500 deaths and over 107,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States. Most of those experiencing NSAID-related stomach problems have no warning signs. There are certain risk factors (for example, age or medical history) that increase the chances of having stomach problems while taking anti-inflammatories.

Acetaminophen can also relieve the pain of arthritis, but not the underlying swelling and inflammation. Continuous, or chronic, use of acetaminophen can also have serious side effects. If you suffer from arthritis pain you should consult a health professional about the most effective and safe way to manage your pain.

If I want more pain relief, can’t I just increase the dose?

More is not necessarily better when taking an OTC pain medication, and it can be dangerous. Read the label carefully and always take the recommended dose, or follow your doctor’s instructions. A third of all consumers take more than the recommended dose of an OTC drug thinking it will increase the drug’s effectiveness. But studies have linked overuse of anti-inflammatories and acetaminophen with kidney and liver problems.

I have a cold and a headache. Can I take two different OTC pain medications at the same time to relieve my pain?

You should be very careful when combining OTC painkillers. Many popular pain medications for headaches and colds combine pain-relieving products. Read the labels of these combination products carefully to make sure you are not taking more than the recommended amount or combining medications unknowingly. For example, one adult dose of Nyquil contains a cough suppressant, an antihistamine, and 1,000 mg. of acetaminophen. If you take the recommended adult dose of Nyquil along with two extra-strength Tylenol, you will have doubled your acetaminophen dose and taken half the recommended daily amount at one time. And the combination of some OTC pain relievers with different active ingredients can create harmful interactions.

Combining anti-inflammatories with antacids or an acid blocker such as Pepcid AC or Tagamet to stop the stomach irritation of anti-inflammatories may actually increase the risk of ulcers. By stopping heartburn symptoms, a warning sign for treatment, the acid blockers may result in late detection, larger ulcers, and even hospitalization.

What about interactions between pain relievers and other substances?

Alcohol — Since alcohol irritates the stomach lining, drinking it while taking anti-inflammatories or acetaminophen can be disastrous. If you drink three or more glasses of alcohol a day you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking an OTC pain medication.

Dietary supplements — You should always know which dietary supplements you are taking, including vitamins, minerals and herbals, since some may interact with OTC pain relievers and cause side effects. For example, Ginkgo, a supplement that thins the blood, may cause excessive bleeding when combined with aspirin.

 

Understand your OTC Drug Facts labels – National Consumers League

You’re taking more responsibility for your own healthcare, medicating yourself for minor ailments like colds, headaches, and stomach aches. But do you know enough about the medicines you take to make informed healthcare decisions for you and your family? Looking at your medication labels carefully – and understanding what they say – will help you use them wisely and avoid problems.

Labels: take them seriously

OTCs are available without a prescription, but they’re still medications. Take them seriously and read the labels each time you take the medication.

It’s a good habit to get into. Your life is hectic. Do you really remember the last time you read the label on your headache medication? Was it before you started taking that new daily prescription, or after? Checking the label each time you use the medication will help to ensure that you won’t have a problem.
Sometimes labels change, so check each time you buy a new OTC. You may inadvertently pick up a bottle of an OTC you’ve taken before, but not notice that the per-pill dosage is higher.

Drug Facts labels

FDA approved a regulation in 1999 requiring that all OTC drug labels contain certain information such as ingredients and doses and warnings in a standardized format. This covers 100,000+ nonprescription products, including sunscreens. In the same way that “Nutrition Facts” helped consumers understand the fat content of foods, FDA hope its “Drug Facts” label will help consumers choose and use OTCs. Here are the sections that appear in the Drug Facts label and how to understand what they mean:

Active ingredients
Active ingredients are the specific chemical ingredients that make a drug work. This section also shows the amount of active ingredient in each dose.

Purpose
Explains the class of drug. For example, you might see the word antihistamine under “purpose” on a label for an allergy medication.

Uses
What you should use the drug for. Make sure you find a medication that relieves only the symptoms you need it to. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for help in choosing the right medications for your symptoms. 

Warnings:

Do not use…
Lists when the product should not be used under any circumstances

Ask a Doctor before use if you have…
Some labels have warnings for people with chronic health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, glaucoma, asthma, or diabetes. People older than 65 or younger than two may not be able to take some OTCs. This section explains who should consult a health care provider before taking the medications.

Ask a Doctor or pharmacist before use if you are…
Sometimes the food you eat, other medicines you take, or tobacco can interact with medications. On this portion of the label, companies will list foods or beverages to avoid while taking the medication. Talk to your healthcare provider or pharmacist about all the medications you take, both prescription and over-the-counter. Don’t forget to mention any dietary supplements too; interact with medications.

When using this product…
For most people OTCs are safe, effective, and without complications. But some people do experience side effects. The most common side effects are listed on the label. If you have a side effect to an OTC, re-read the label. Most side effects are minor nuisances, but should be discussed with your doctor. If the side effect is severe or continues, you should stop taking the medication and call your healthcare professional.
This part of the label will also describe substances or activities to avoid while taking the medication.

Two warnings commonly found on OTCs are:

  1. Do not drink alcoholic beverages while taking this medicine. People also ignore or forget this common warning when taking OTCs, but mixing alcohol and medications can cause serious problems. For example, combining alcohol and certain OTC medications for colds, coughs, and allergies can cause excessive sleepiness, mental confusion, or breathing difficulty. Sometimes the combination makes the medicine less effective.
  2. Do not drive or operate heavy machinery. Many people ignore this warning on some OTC medications. Driving after taking some nonprescription medicines such as cold, cough, and allergy or sleep aids can cause impaired judgment and reaction time. Use the medications only as recommended. Remember that medications may affect people differently. It may take 2 or 3 doses before you know how a medication will affect you.

Stop use and ask a doctor if…
When side effects are severe or continue, you should stop taking the medication and call your healthcare professional. This section will explain the serious side effects that warrant an immediate call to your doctor.

Pregnancy/breastfeeding warning
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, you should always consult a doctor before taking any medication.

Keep out of reach of children
This warning explains what to do incase of an overdose. 

Directions

This is where you?ll find out how much of the medication to take, when, how and how often. Do not use medications longer than the time listed on the label. The label will tell you when to consult your healthcare provider if you have not had relief from your symptoms. Persistent symptoms may signal a serious problem that requires attention and treatment by your health care provider.Inactive ingredients

Other Information

This area will include information, as necessary, on how to store the medication.

Inactive ingredients

This is the list of ingredients that are only used as additives for color, flavor, binding, or bulk.

Do you have questions about your over-the-counter medications?

Companies may list a phone number for any questions you may have about the medication.

Ask your health-care provider and/or pharmacist the following:

  • Are there any over-the-counter medicines or dietary supplements I should avoid when taking this prescription medication?
  • Is it okay to take _____ over-the-counter medication with my prescriptions?
  • Do my OTCs or dietary supplements interact with any food or beverages?

Understanding your phone bill – National Consumers League

Life’s a lot more complicated than it used to be – and so is your phone bill!

With more competition for telephone service and new services being developed every day, you have more choices for your communications needs than ever before. But understanding your options – and your phone bill – has become much harder.

Many phone companies are redesigning their bills to make them easier to understand. However, the charges may still be confusing unless you know some basics about how telephone billing works.

Looking at your phone bill carefully – and understanding what it says – will help you use phone services wisely and avoid fraud.

Basic services

  • Your local phone bill includes a basic monthly charge for the dial tone that enables you to make and receive calls, maintain the connection between your home and the telephone company’s central office, be listed in the telephone book, get a copy of the directory, and make a limited number of calls for directory assistance.

Local calling charges

  • You may have a “flat rate” local telephone plan in which your monthly service charge includes the ability to make an unlimited number of calls to other phones located near you. The size of the local calling area varies from company to company.
  • If you have “measured service,” you are limited to the number of calls that your monthly package allows; if you make more calls, you pay an additional charge for each one.
  • You may only have one choice for local services now, but as time goes on there will be more competition. The pricing plans and service options offered by each company may vary.

Local toll

  • Sometimes called “short distance calls,” local toll calls are made to places that are not close enough to be in your local calling area but not far enough away to be handled as long distance calls.
  • As competition for phone services increases, more consumers can choose whether to have local toll calls completed by their local telephone companies or other companies.
  • The area that each company serves for local toll calling and the prices they charge may vary.

Long distance

  • There are many ways that you can make long distance calls. Most consumers have a regular, or “presubscribed” long distance carrier. When you dial “1” plus the area code and the phone number, the access code for the presubscribed carrier is automatically entered and the call is billed at the rates that company charges.
  • In most parts of the country there is competition for long distance service. Calling plans can vary widely, not only in rates but in the geographic areas they cover, and companies may offer more than one plan to choose from. There may be a monthly fee in addition to the charge for each long distance call and there may be a minimum monthly charge.
  • You can also make long distance calls using a “dial-around service.” You manually enter another company’s access code (such as 10-10-XXX), then “1”, the area code, and the phone number. That company will then bill for the call based on its own rates. Look at ads for dial-around services carefully – the prices they quote may only apply if you talk for a certain number of minutes, or the rates may vary depending on time of day or where you are calling, and there may also be a monthly fee added.
  • Calling cards, which are like charge cards for telephone calls, are available from many companies. You can use them from your home phone, a pay phone, a phone in a hotel room, or somewhere else. The charges might be billed through your local phone company or directly by the calling card company. Depending on your calling card company, the cost of some calls could include a surcharge in addition to the per-minute rate. There may also be a monthly fee. Be aware that some phone companies may not accept calls made with cards issued by other companies.
  • Collect calls are charged to the bill of the person whose number is being called. They can be made through a local or long distance operator or through services offered by other companies. The rates vary according to which company provides the service. For instance, if you call collect through an operator at a pay phone, the cost is set by the company that provides service to the phone you’re using. If you make a collect call from the same phone through another company’s 800 number collect call service, the call is billed at that company’s rates.

Pay-per-call services

  • These are information and entertainment services provided through 900 numbers, some 800 numbers, and certain international phone numbers.
  • The rates can vary from as little as a few cents to several dollars per minute. Some pay-per-call services are billed at a flat rate for each call.
  • Charges for pay-per-call services provided through 900 and 800 numbers are set by the service providers, not the telephone companies. They will appear on a separate page in your phone bill.

Miscellaneous services

  • Miscellaneous services can include caller ID, call waiting, voice mail, paging, and even Internet and other non-telephone services. They may be provided by your local phone company or other companies.
  • Depending on what company provides them, charges for miscellaneous services may appear on the phone bill under your local company’s services or on a separate page.
  • Before you pay your bill, read it carefully and make sure that you are only being charged for services you have authorized.

Fees, surcharges, and taxes

  • In addition to the charges you pay for the services you use, you’ll find various fees, surcharges, and taxes on your bill. Taxes go straight to the government. Some fees and surcharges billed by telephone companies cover the costs of carrying out government-mandated programs, others are intended to recover portions of their operating expenses. Companies may use different terms to describe these charges.

Directory assistance

  • Your monthly local service charge may include a certain number of “free” calls for directory assistance. If you make more local directory assistance calls than are included in your monthly package, there is an additional charge for each call.
  • You may also be charged by your long distance company for any long distance directory assistance calls you have made using their operators.
  • Many local and long distance companies have begun to provide nationwide directory assistance services, with rates that vary from company to company. You may be allowed to request more than one listing in each call to directory assistance. Know what each company charges for directory assistance before placing the call. And if the directory assistance operator offers to complete the call for you, be aware that there may be an additional charge for this service.

Lifeline surcharge

  • Some states collect a lifeline surcharge to assist low-income consumers. As of July 1, 2000, low-income consumers who subscribe to Lifeline service will not be billed for the subscriber line charge or the universal service fee.

Local number portability charge

  • Local telephone companies have created a system that allows consumers to keep the same phone number when they change local service providers. This fee, charged to all customers, covers the cost of this technology. The amount of this fee may vary based on where you live.

State subscriber line charge

  • Some states allow local phone companies to assess this fee to recover the cost of providing lines for services within the state, like intrastate long distance and local service.

Subscriber line charge, or end-user common line charge

  • This is a fee that the Federal Communications Commission allows local phone companies to charge to recover a portion of the costs of completing long distance calls on their local networks.

Taxes

  • There is a federal excise tax assessed on telephone service.
  • You may also be charged state and municipal taxes depending on where you live.

Telecommunications relay service

  • Some people who have hearing or speech disabilities use a special type of text telephone, called a TTY, to place calls.
  • This fee, which is charged to all customers, covers the cost of providing a “translation” service for calls between TTYs users and people using traditional voice telephone. It also helps to subsidize the cost of specialized telecommunications equipment for people with specific disabilities.

Universal service fees, universal connectivity charge, telephone assistance plan, or universal service fund

  • Long distance companies, and most local providers, charge this fee as part of a federal program to subsidize local telephone service for low-income consumers or those who live in areas where the cost of providing telecommunications services is exceptionally high.
  • It also covers discounted communications services for schools, libraries, and rural health care facilities.

911 surcharge

  • This is collected on behalf of state or local governments to cover the cost of providing 911 access to emergency services.