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Public and private law regarding minors using 900 numbers

The Telecommunications Group of DWI owns and Operates several local telephone companies. One service that DWI provides to its commercial customers is the use of "900 numbers" by which third-parties (clients of DWI customers) receive products & services. Billing for these products and services is delineated as charges owed to DWI instead of the business provider (e.g. Dudes with Dough, Lonely College Co-Eds, Madame Marie - Psychic to the Stars, etc.) and often blends into the small-print of phone bills and is overlooked by spouses, parents, and persons other than the third party user who might have access to the bill.

DWI owns and operates Appalachian Bell, the local service provider for the mountain areas of North Carolina and Tennessee. You've just received a letter from Dewey Cheatham, Esq., who represents Ma & Pa Kettle of Mountaintop, NC. About a month ago, an employee in DWI's accounts receivables department called the Kettle home regarding the $500.00 Delinquency on their phone account and attempted to collect the debt. The Kettles denied any knowledge of anyone using these services and refused to pay the charges.

Further investigation revealed that the phone calls to the dating hotline made from the Kettle phone were made by the Kettle's 12 year old grandson and some of his friends, who often spent weekends with them. What are the public law and private law implications of this scenario? Make a recommendation to the DWI Board as to policies it should implement to address future problems.

Solution Preview

This example raises some interesting issues. I am sure that the problem can be analyzed from a lot of different legal aspects.

You have two competing concerns here:

1) DWI receiving payment for services provided; and

2) the minor child's capacity to be held responsible for the accrued charges to the 900 numbers.

From a practical point of view, for this instance, it would be best to forgive the charge and make it clear to the couple that future charges will be held against them. This would ...

Solution Summary

This job examines public law and private law implications of 900 numbers.