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Georgia adds 75-cent 911 fee for prepaid card purchases

We’ve seen many states adopt laws that charge prepaid users fees for 911 services. It seems fair enough. Prepaid customers use 911 services just like postpaid users, and postpaid users have a 911 fee added to each month’s bill. The problem comes when trying to assess who pays and who does not. Ideally everyone would, but states simply do not have that type of jurisdiction. As with many other states that have implemented 911 fees for prepaid users, Georgia will add a fee at the point of sale, amounting to 75 cents per card purchased. Unfortunately, that doesn’t address the entire issue.

The first, and most prominent, issue here is the internet. The state of Georgia — and all states — cannot charge the 911 fee for purchases made on the internet. So Georgia residents wishing to avoid the 75 cent 911 fee can do so by buying their prepaid minutes on a website, rather than at the store.

The other issue is that the 75-fee is flat, regardless of card denomination. It makes much more sense, then, to buy in larger increments, since it amounts to a lower percentage of the overall purchase. That is, you’re better off buying one $50 card than a $25 card at one point and then another $25 card later. Of course, buying minutes in larger packages increases the chances that they’ll expire, so there’s another drawback.

There doesn’t appear to be any easy way for states to collect 911 fees from prepaid users in the same way they collect from postpaid users. Every state is subject to the above limitations. It could take reform at the federal level in order to collect this fee for online purchases. Understandably, that could take a lot of time and consideration.