International Surcharges

Did you know that placing an international long distance call from your wireline telephone here in the United States to a wireless phone in another country may result in a “surcharge” on your bill in addition to your usual charges?

This can happen because many foreign countries use a “calling party pays” framework. Under a “calling party pays” framework, wireless phone subscribers pay only for the outgoing calls they place to others. The “calling party” must pay for calls placed to wireless phones. This means that when wireline U.S. customers call foreign wireless customers, foreign carriers may pass through to the U.S. carrier the additional cost of connecting the wireless call. The U.S. carrier may then pass this cost through to you as a surcharge on your telephone bill. Some examples of the highest per minute surcharges currently reflected on certain long distance carriers’ websites include: $0.22 for the United Kingdom and $0.23 for France.

What can you do?

  • Educate yourself. On the websites of many carriers, lists of foreign country “area codes” which are set aside only for their mobile phone users, are provided. These lists also provide an approximate per minute surcharge for calling these numbers. If your carrier does not provide such a list, call and ask for the information.
  • If you have a choice of numbers to call, call a foreign landline (versus a wireless) number.
  • If you don’t have a choice of numbers to call, understand that your real costs will include the mobile phone surcharge.
  • Read FCC’s Consumer Advisory