U.S. consumer case filed against BBG phone firm

A California law firm has filed a class action suite against BBG Communications, Inc., the company that is known for charging astounding fees for credit card telephone calls.

The law firm, The Consumer Law Group in San Diego, alleges six violations, involving federal consumer law, criminal law and breach of contract.

BBG has telephones in a number of tourist hotels and other sites in Costa Rica as well as around the world. The company, owned by the Galicot family in Tijuana, México, is known for surprising callers when they return home and check their credit card bill for overseas calls. The rates can be $10 or more a minute. The federal court filing claims that the company even charges when no one answers.

BBG has a relationship with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad here. The once national telephone monopoly said it entered into an agreement with the firm because it did not have the capacity to collect for credit card calls.

A.M. Costa Rica published articles on the firm two years ago after a reporter was billed $36 for the first minute of a call to New York City. One article is titled “Pact with ICE allows U.S. phone firm to skin callers.” The story said that the firm had telephones in about 400 hotels here and that the hotel got $7 a call. The initial contract was negotiated during the presidency of Miguel Ángel Rodríguez who is now on trial facing unrelated corruption charges involving telephone service.

The firm filed the case based on the experiences of two California men, but John Mattes, a lawyer with the firm, said that a Web site will be unveiled this week that will invite consumers who believe they have been overcharged to join in.

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