St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 15, 2014
– Customers of Jail Call Services
, a Texas company that advertises deep discounts on phone calls between jail prisoners and their families, say they got little or nothing after paying for service. Better Business Bureau
(BBB) advises caution when dealing with Jail Call Services, based in Dallas, Texas. The business has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest possible. More than 190 customers across the nation have filed complaints against the firm, including several customers from Missouri and Illinois.
A woman from Maryland Heights, Mo., said she paid Jail Call Services $70 to enroll in the phone program, but gave up on the service after trying unsuccessfully to use the system to contact a relative incarcerated at a prison in Tipton, Mo. “They should be ashamed of taking advantage of prisoners’ families,” she said. “I’m probably never going to see that money again.”
Many complainants said they tried repeatedly to get the company to refund their money when they couldn’t get the phone program to work, but the company refused. Several said the facility’s regular phone service provider told them they were blocking prisoners’ calls because it was illegal to use the third-party call forwarding system required by the Jail Call Services program.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that consumers looking for discounted jail or prison phone programs should research companies carefully before giving them money.
“Offers of big savings on jail or prison calls may sound enticing, but consumers often discover that these companies fail to live up to their promises,” Corey said. She suggested that friends and family members of inmates contact jail or prison facilities directly to ask about phone programs.
The home page for Jail Call Services, www.jailcallservices.com
, is almost identical to the former home page of another Texas company with a similar name – Jail Call Solutions
. Jail Call Solutions is the subject of more than 120 complaints from consumers to BBB. Jail Call Solutions also has an “F” rating with BBB.
Some of the language on Jail Call Services’ website also is identical to the language on other companies’ websites that have offered similar discounted phone services. Those websites include US Jail Calls, US Prison Calls, Prison Call Services, Prison Call Solutions
and Prisoner Talk
Jail Call Solutions’ former home page uses the same photo of a young woman speaking on the phone as Jail Call Services’ home page. Both use the phrase: “Without Us . . . ‘Talk’s not cheap.’” Both sites claim “savings up to 80 percent,” “entire family memberships available” and “only provider with ‘unlimited’ minutes!” Much of the rest of the content of the home pages also are the same.
The Texas comptroller’s office lists Marc Grisham of Dallas as president and director of Jail Call Solutions. The office lists no officials with Jail Call Services, but reports a mailing address in Austin, Texas.
Jail Call Services did not respond to a request for information from BBB.
A woman from North St. Louis County said she paid Jail Call Services $49 last May for a program that was supposed to have allowed her to speak more cheaply with her ex-husband, who was jailed in the Madison County jail in Edwardsville, Ill. She said that when her efforts to connect with the system failed, she requested her money back. She has not received a refund.
A woman from Jacksonville, Fla., said she paid $70 to enroll in a three-month phone program with Jail Call Services, hoping to save on phone conversations with her son. “It never worked,” she said. The company refused to refund her money and repeatedly blamed the problems on the jail’s contracted phone service provider. “I just got fed up,” she said. “I want my $70 back.”
A woman in Mesa, Ariz., paid Jail Call Services $70 in August to enroll in the phone savings program and tried for three months to get the service to work before getting a single call from her son.
After that call, the woman said, the company that was contracting with the jail for phone service told her that she would be criminally prosecuted if she continued to try to use a phone number provided through the Jail Call Services program. “I was desperate to talk to my son, and we couldn’t get through,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right.”
A woman from Keithville, La., who paid Jail Call Services $86 for service, said: “Not one phone call went through.”
A woman from Bridgeport, Ct., who paid the company $70, also said she got nothing. She said the jail’s regular phone service provider told her that the service was illegal.
BBB offers the following tips for families trying to communicate with friends or family members who are incarcerated:
Contacts (News Media Only):
- Contact the jail or prison directly about phone call procedures. The facility usually will have a list of rules to follow when attempting to communicate with persons incarcerated there.
- Be wary of any company that offers to save you money on prison or jail calls. The service may not be compatible with the facility’s phone service or may violate facility regulations.
- Pay with a credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the charge later.
- Check for a BBB Business Review by going to http://stlouis.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org
, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com
, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org