DPS -Consumer Guide: Calls Made from Payphones

DPS -Consumer Guide: Calls Made from Payphones


Payphone charges for local calls are no longer regulated as a result of a decision by the federal government. This means that the payphone owner sets the charges for a phone call. However, PSC rules require certain information to be posted prominently at each payphone location:

  • rates for local calls
  • name and telephone number of the owner
  • information about how to obtain refunds

Who owns payphones?

Payphones are owned by local exchange companies; by local entities such as grocery stores, gas stations, bowling alleys, beauty salons, malls, schools, hospitals, etc.; and by private companies that place their payphones on the premises of companies and organizations that want public phones at their locations.

Are customers charged for 911 calls?

No. Emergency calls made to 911 are free of charge at payphones. Calls to the Operator and to the Telephone Relay Services (used by people with hearing and speech disabilities) are also free. How can I protect myself from high rates and poor service? Because payphone rates and service can vary widely across the state, consumers should look for:

  • phones that are in working condition, in well lit areas;
  • clear information about the ownership of the phone and a telephone number of the owner;
  • clear information on local and toll rates charged for that phone; and
  • clear and visible instructions on how to obtain a refund.

All payphones must allow you to use a long distance provider of your choice however consumers should use their chosen long distance carrier or calling card provider’s toll free (800, 877 or 888) number or special access code when making calling card, operator assisted or collect calls.

How do I file a complaint about payphones?

  • Contact the owner of the telephone as instructed on the telephone.
  • Contact the NYS Public Service Commission to file a complaint online, by phone, fax, letter or in person. 

Contact the Federal Communications Commission:

  • By phone at 1-888-225-5322
  • File a complaint online at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us
  • Write to: Federal Communications Commission
    Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
    Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
    445 12th Street, SW
    Washington, DC 20554