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When you place a long-distance call from a public phone – such as a payphone, hotel, or airport phone – using a calling card or access code for long-distance service you subscribe to, there’s a chance it may be routed to a distant call center before being handed off to your long-distance company. As a result, you might be billed as if your call originated from the distant call center rather than the actual location, with a higher long-distance rate than you expected.

This practice is known as “call splashing.”

Is it legal?

A telephone company is permitted to base charges on an alternative point of origination if you:

  • Request a transfer to a different company's operator
  • Are informed (before incurring any charges) that the call may be billed as if it originated elsewhere  
  • Consent to the transfer

Avoid being splashed

  • Listen carefully to the telephone operator and don't consent to any call transfers unless you understand what the operator is asking.
  • Carefully read your phone bill to ensure the origination and destination locations of your long-distance phone calls are correct.
  • If your call has been billed at a higher rate without your consent, file a complaint with your long-distance company. 
  • If you are unable to resolve the matter with your long-distance company, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

Printable Version

Call Splashing: Long-Distance Calling from a Public Phone:  Word | PDF


Date Last Updated/Reviewed: 
Monday, December 30, 2019