While in Hamburg for the LinuxBIOS summit a couple weeks ago, I called home a couple times. The hotel had a helpful piece of paper stating ‘dial 777 for credit card calls’. Foolishly, I thought I’d better not use my cellphone ($1/minute), and that I should try this service.
A couple weeks later I received my visa statement – my two calls cost 77.46 Euro and 39.68 Euro respectively. The credit card statement read “CALL FRM GERMANY INFONW.COM – FR” in the description field for the charges. The http://www.infonw.com website basically seems to have the sole purpose of dealing with outraged customers. It provides contact information to ‘find more information about the charge made’.
So I called them. I was told by their representative ‘Kerry’ that the first call was 17 minutes long, and the second call 6 minutes long. I asked what the rates were on the calls. She stated that there was a 10 Euro connection fee, followed by a fee of 4.93 Euro per minute. Pretty outrageous, no?
When I complained that the rates were not advertised anywhere at the hotel, she said that the ‘live operator’ could have told me the rates. When I pointed out that there was no live operator – the operation was fully automatic, she said that the automated system could also provide that information, if you press 0. When I asked how I was supposed to know that (there was no voice prompt indicating that), she said it was ‘standard’.
This company is in the business of ripping people off through deceptive business practices. They operate under various different names, don’t advertise rates, and basically overcharge for their service by about 1,000 %. They seem to be successful at it – here’s a random selection of stories from other people that they have ripped off:
The BBB of San Diego (that’s where they are) has a report on them that’s quite revealing.
Moral of the story: never, ever use a hotel phone unless you know exactly how much it is going to cost you. I’ve filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, but that went nowhere. I’ve also complained to the hotel, but they didn’t seem to think I was worthy of a response.
So, time to warn other people about these guys. Avoid “BBG Communications” aka “International Satellite Communications” aka “Call To International” aka http://infonw.com aka http://infonaa.com aka http://bbgcomm.com like the plague.
And do not use the hotel phones at the Baseler Hof in Hamburg. In fact, maybe you should consider another hotel if you’re going to Hamburg. I’m pretty sure they get a fairly significant cut of what BBG Communications charges. If you do pick another hotel, you may want to let Baseler Hof know that you’re not staying there because they deal with those fraudsters at BBG Communications. Maybe that will make them change their mind. It’s a shame, it’s a nice hotel otherwise.