Two companies that facilitate collect calls made from U.S. jails and prisons and a mobile marketing company were hit with a class action Monday in Maryland federal court for allegedly colluding to inflate the cost of inmate calls for a decade.
Securus Technologies LLC, Global Tel*Link Corp. and 3Cinteractive Corp. were accused of working together to maintain the "astronomical" costs of inmate calls by Ashley Albert, Ashley Baxter, Karina Jakeway and Melinda Jabbie, who are family members of prisoners that had to pay the allegedly high call costs.
"Securus and GTL were able to charge these excessive [call] prices by agreeing to eliminate competition between themselves and to fix the same inflated single call prices to consumers in violation of the federal antitrust laws," the lawsuit read.
Securus allegedly unveiled flat-rate prices for calls in 2010 that served as an alternative to per-minute rates. The company charged the recipient $14.99 for a call lasting up to 15 minutes and $9.99 for a call lasting up to 10 minutes. Securus contracted 3CI to develop, market, implement and operate the single-call programs.
Soon after Securus launched its single-call programs, the lawsuit claimed, GTL began to develop its own single-call programs and planned to charge less than Securus. However, Securus allegedly nipped the competition in the bud when it obtained a 3CI patent covering technology used to charge recipients for single calls in late 2012.
With the patent purchase, 3CI allegedly could not provide services involving the patent's technology to GTL without Securus' permission and approval of the contract terms.
Securus and 3CI allegedly agreed that 3CI would approach GTL and ask it to enter into a contract with it. The contract would make GTL offer its single-call programs at the same price as Securus' while it used 3CI for marketing and implementation services.
According to the lawsuit, 3CI approached GTL in early 2013 with the contract offer and GTL eventually agreed. The agreement outlined two GTL services that would be offered through 3CI: a $14.99 flat-rate for a 15-minute call and a $9.99 fee for a 10-minute call.
To justify the high costs of the calls, Securus and GTL allegedly told consumers and state and local governments that much of the call costs went to transaction fees paid to 3CI to implement the calls. But the lawsuit claimed less than half of the call costs actually went to 3CI, and the two companies secretly pocketed the difference.
The lawsuit accuses Securus, GTL and 3CI of engaging in a conspiracy to fix prices, violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and engaging in a conspiracy to violate the RICO Act.
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The family members of prisoners and the proposed class are represented by Matthew K. Handley, Rachel E. Nadas, George F. Farah, Rebecca P. Chang and William A. Anderson of Handley Farah & Anderson PLLC; Benjamin D. Brown, Brent W. Johnson, Robert A. Braun and Christopher J. Bateman of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC; Benjamin D. Elga, Kelly Jo Popkin, Brian J. Shearer and Craig L. Briskin of Justice Catalyst Law Inc.; Daniel Marshall of the Human Rights Defense Center; and Hannah E.M. Lieberman of the Washington Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights And Urban Affairs.
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