Why You Should Think Twice Before Accepting (or Making) a Collect Call

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There are no regulations whatsoever for how much pay phones can charge for collect calls. The result? A conversation that lasts a few minutes can cost the person accepting a collect call nearly $50.

A collect call, if you’re under the age of 25 and have never heard the term, is one made from a pay phone, in which the acceptor is billed—in some cases, billed an extraordinary amount. In the age of cell phones, few people ever need to think of making collect calls, but emergencies happen.

Just make sure it’s a true emergency before you call collect and anger the person on the other end who is asked to accept what could be outrageous charges. As an LA Times columnist reported recently, a typical collect call may incur a connectivity fee of $25, per-minute charges upwards of $2.50, and all sorts of other fees with names like “bill cost recovery fee.” The bill for one three-minute collect call was $45.09.