Once again the "Value of Voice" will become more
expensive to consumers as Belize Telecommunications Limited (BTL) implements a
new innovative way of increasing their revenues-"free" voice mail service. A
standard feature of all "pre-paid" cellular phone packages, this service
automatically activates and is supposed to record a messages after a certain
amount of rings. Now, whether the caller is able to leave a message or not is a
completely different matter, but it is still considered a completed call if the
voice mail answers, leaving the caller billed for the
This was the "message" received by the San Pedro Sun this week when investigating phone
charges billed to a certain hotel guest. After calling a cellular phone number
for a local taxi service, the guest received a "voice messaging service." She
hung up but still received a charge on her hotel bill for it. Most people
understand that if you call someone with an answering machine and you let it
ring until the machine picks up, you are charged for a completed call. But who
expects a taxi driver to use an answering machine for their business let alone
have one in their vehicle?
What the general population
does not realize is the number of people who are now given this service "free"
and do not realize that the people calling them are being charged. If the owner
of the phone does not program the messaging service to record their messages,
the person making the phone call not only pays for the
call-they cannot leave a recorded message either.
Speaking with representatives of BTL's Public
Relations Office it was learned that voice mail is standard with all pre-paid
cellular phone packages. Customer Service personnel are to explain the system to
the customer and additionally give them a pamphlet when they activate their
phones. The voice mail system is not a feature of the phone itself; it is
programmed into the phone line and is free of charge.
Another surprise is that, as of this May, to coincide with the new seven-digit
numbering system, BTL will activate voice mail as a standard feature on all
regular phone lines. The consumer does have the right to deny this service but
must specify their wishes or it will automatically become part of their phone
"service". BTL Public Relations personnel assured this newspaper that a full
public awareness campaign regarding "free" voice mail is
It was also learned that the number of rings
required before voice mail answers varies from phone to phone. Like regular home
answering machines, you can preset the number of rings before the machine
automatically takes over. Some phones are programmed for four and some for six.
Essentially, as it stands currently, if a caller wants to avoid voice mail (and
the charge for a phone call) on a pre-paid cellular phone line, or to any
service with automatic messaging, the solution is to hang up after three rings.
Anyone wishing more information on this "service" may
call BTL Customer Service at 02-77085.