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Prison Telecom Company Scheme Prompts New FCC Guidelines, Millions in Refunds

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Global Tel Link (GTL), one of the largest prison technology providers in the country, must pay $67 million in refunds and credits after a 2015 class-action lawsuit revealed that the company had seized $121 million from users’ prepaid accounts that were fraudulently deemed inactive after only 90 days, Protocol reports. In total, GTL seized $121 million from users’ prepaid accounts at an average of more than $1 million a month over the course of eight years.

In response, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed new rules that would prohibit GTL and other providers from marking an account inactive for at least 180 days and require all unspent funds to be refunded to customers. The FCC also plans to mandate prison telecom companies to provide video call services for incarcerated people with communication disabilities and who speak American Sign Language. The new rules will be voted on by the commission on Sept. 29, 2022. The full extent of GTL’s seizures, which continued even after the lawsuit was filed, are unknown, as the court has allowed revenue since September 2019 to be redacted.

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