Mexico's top telecom sold international calling cards short on minutes, says Md. AGAn international calling card company that markets mainly to Latino communities agreed to refund Maryland consumers to settle allegations it sold cards short of the advertised number of minutes, state Attorney General Douglas Gansler says.

Telmex USA LLC denied it violated the state's consumer protection act, but agreed to pay $60,000 in restitution that will be used to fund an agency or charity program to benefit affected consumers. Telmex also agreed to pay a $90,000 civil penalty and $45,000 for costs.

Telmex is a subsidiary of Telefonos de Mexico -- the main telecommunications carrier for Mexico. Its international calling cards allow users to call more than 100 major cities in Latin America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia.


The company sells its prepaid calling cards through distributors in convenience stores, groceries and check cashing stores. In Maryland, Telmex sold mostly to Latino consumers in Prince George's and Montgomery counties who have relatives living outside the United States, the attorney general's office says.

Calling card advertisements promised large amounts of minutes to selected countries -- one poster touted a $5 card with 1,250 minutes to Mexico City, Guadalajara or Monterrey. But Gansler alleges Telmex didn't come through and provided "substantially fewer minutes than promised."

Telmex sold its prepaid calling cards under brand names including "TXT2 Communications," "Tier One," "Oro Honduras," "Lunatico," "La Nativa," La Deportiva," "La Pantera," "Sonrisa," "La Botantita DMV," "Che Cala" and "El Aventurero."

"Consumers have a right to receive what they are promised," Gansler says. "Through today's settlement, Telmex USA and all of its distributors must reform their practices and deliver the calling minutes that they promise to consumers."

The prepaid calling card industry is particularly rife with consumer abuse, and federal and state agencies are cracking down on dishonest operators. Consumer Ally takes a look at law enforcement's efforts and shows consumers how to avoid getting taken.

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