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3 On Your Side: Elderly Still Renting Home Phones

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jim-donovan-web Jim Donovan
Jim Donovan is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning consumer reporter w...
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By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Do you have landline phone in your home? Well some consumers could be paying hundreds of dollars a year more than they have to and you won’t believe the reason why. While Ma Bell may be a thing of the past, 3 On Your Side Consumer Reporter Jim Donovan finds that some companies still may have your number!

Most people who have land line phones in their homes own them outright. But as odd as it might seem, there are some people still leasing their home phones!
Phone leasing goes back to the days of ma bell when people had to rent phones as part of their basic service. Little did Martha Rettalick realize that her parents were among those still renting! She says, “I don’t think this should exist at all.”

Martha was visiting from Arizona recently when she came across a bill at her parents house for $21.09. It was from a company called QLT Consumer Lease Services and was the monthly bill for leasing 3 home phones. Martha says, “Add that up over the course of a year, that’s over $250 for leasing a telephone. Since the mid 80’s Martha estimates her parents may have spent over $6,000 renting phones. And her parents aren’t the only ones.

“Some folks never got around to buying their own personal telephone at any local store and are still just going ahead and paying that monthly rental along in their phone bill,” says Karen Chenoweth of CARIE, The Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. Karen believes that many of the people who still lease their home phones are senior citizens who don’t know other options exist. She says, “There’s no incentive for the company to say hey by the way you could buy a equal or better product at your local store instead of paying me a monthly bill.”

Martha says she isn’t even sure her parents still have any QLT phones in their home. She says, “At least one of them is no longer here, one of the phones upstairs is one that I gave them.” Which posed a problem since her parents would have to return the QLT phones in order to avoid a cancellation fee. That’s when Martha reached out to 3 On Your Side for assistance. She says, “I don’t think that younger family members or friends should have to come in to discover something like this.”

When we contacted the company, they provided us with a statement that in part said, “QLT works diligently to insure our statements are very clear so that our customers know exactly what products and services they are getting.” But nonetheless the company did agreed to cancel the contract at no additional cost. They said, “We are disappointed there was a misunderstanding with this particular customer.”

QLT says that its customers receive an array of services like unconditional replacement of their products for any reason, offering peace of mind. But Martha says, “Peace of mind for something like this, this is a rip off.”

QLT tells us they have over 300-thousand customers who lease phones. With that in mind, the senior advocates at CARIE suggest that if you have an elderly relative or friend, you may want to sit down with them to discuss what bills they’re paying. That way you can be sure they’re not spending money on something they don’t need.

For more information about CARIE and their advocacy on behalf of the elderly, visit: www.carie.org

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