Calling 911 – No Longer Free with MagicJack and other wireless companies

As of August of 2013 MagicJack will charge their users for 911 calls. The reason for this is that 911 centers across the country are choosing to charge a fee to companies like MagicJack to connect their customers to 911. MagicJack users have the option to opt out of paying these fees, but then you won’t get put through to 911 if and when you need it.

Being charged separately per individual call to use 911 (directly or indirectly) is shameful, in our opinion, but we do not blame MagicJack for trying to recoup these fees by passing the cost onto its customers, which in some cases can be as little as $6 per year, or as high as $60 per year. Since MagicJack only charges $20 to $40 per year for its services, you can see how any extra fee can cut into their profits to the point where they must charge extra to cover these fees.

The 911 fee is not the same for everyone. The 911 fee is set by the 911 center where you live (your town or city), not by Magic Jack. Below is a copy of what MagicJack is sending to its customers via email. The email will come from no_reply@magicjack.com and the subject line is “911 Calling”.

Why are 911 centers charging the fee? Well, that depends on who you ask.

Some say it’s because there has been a huge rise in unintentional or “phantom” 911 calls since the rise in cell phone and wireless phone use in recent years. Unintentional calls happen mainly due to “fat fingers”. Phantom calls happen with improperly keyed in automatic dialing, butt dialing, redialing after a true 911 call, and random 911 dialing (some older wireless phones will dial 911 when the phone’s batteries are low).

Some say it’s simply due to the rising cost of keeping the 911 system manned, regardless of what kind of calls come in, and the cost of sending police, fire, and/or rescue to a caller’s location. Keep in mind, even if you do not speak when 911 is dialed, in many cases the 911 operator can know your location and send help, just in case.

Others say it’s just a way for local communities to gain revenue, especially as more and more people shut off their landline service (where every fee possible is added to your bill) and choose to use services like MagicJack, Vonage, Skype, and cell phones – then as state, federal, and local governments realize they are not collecting fees and taxes from everyone they will find a way to do so, and that is by charging the company you do business with which then forces that company to charge you.

Regardless of the reason this time, add-on fees will most likely become routine in the future. Up until now companies like MagicJack and Skype, and some cell phone companies, or your local cable TV company, have been able to dodge many extra fees and surcharges. But it looks like the tax man (and service/surcharge fee man) has decided to come after us once again.

Please note that these 911 fees, charged by MagicJack or other calling services are for the call itself, not for any ambulance, fire, or rescue that may come to your aid. In some cases, in some municipalities, citizens and residence are charged separately for these services either after the use of the service or before, in the form of a separate tax similar to or included in property or business taxes. There have been documented cases of people who did not know they had to pay these taxes, or knew but did not pay, and they were refused emergency services to their home. If you are not sure of the rules and taxes regarding this subject in your area we highly recommend you find out immediately, and take any appropriate action to be sure you and your family (or employees in a business) will be helped in any emergency. If you’re recently moved and are not familiar with your local emergency services rules and regulations, double checking this information in your area is extremely important.

We also strongly suggest you choose to pay for the 911 calling service (with MagicJack or other phone service company) IF YOU HAVE NO OTHER WAY TO CALL 911 IN AN EMERGENCY, and IF IT IS A REASONABLE PRICE in your area. We recommend this only for the safety of you and your family (or you and your employees if the phone is used in a business setting), because you never know when you might need it. We also recommend all citizens do their best to reduce mistaken 911 calls, and do not abuse the 911 system.

For more information regarding 911 calls, the costs of the 911 system, how to prevent problems, new fees, and the new rules and regulations, we recommend these websites and articles:

http://www.popcenter.org/problems/911_abuse/

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124371594

http://johnrlott.blogspot.com/2013/02/chicago-police-will-no-longer-respond.html

http://www.911.gov/whencall.html

http://www.fcc.gov/document/net-911-e911-911-fees-information-collection

http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/services/911-services/enhanced911/Welcome.html

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EMAIL SENT TO MAGICJACK CUSTOMERS:

“Dear customer:

This is not a bill, but a choice for you as described below. If you decide you will not pay, you do not have to take any action.

Due to recent changes, magicJack will start to charge for 911 services for 911 capability. If you decide to continue to receive certain limited 911 calling privileges as described in our TOS, you will need to go to my.magicjack.com and fill out the necessary forms and give new debit/credit card information.

magicJack will not profit by collecting these pass through charges for the 911 authorities.

The charges will be billed annually by email and may cost anywhere from $6.00 to over $60.00 a year. On average throughout the country it will cost about $12.00 a year.

magicJack will provide limited exceptions for hardship cases for people who made a 911 call before July 1, 2013 and will post notification or email these certain customers later concerning the eligibility.

These unfortunate changes were made necessary because certain emergency 911 Districts in certain jurisdictions requested we attempt to bill on their behalf and benefit.

Dan”

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“Dan” is Dan Borislow, the inventor of MagicJack, the man you see in the commercials with his young daughter.

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Read more about MagicJack in our review article:

http://www.practicalwaystosavemoney.com/?p=729

 

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