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Phone Companies Waive Fees for Haiti Calls or Texts

Phone service providers are donating more than money and equipment to the relief effort in Haiti: They’re giving a price break to customers worried about loved ones in that earthquake-ravaged nation.

• Verizon is waiving long-distance charges for phone calls to Haiti made by wireless or residential landline customers through Jan. 31. Calls made starting Jan. 20 will be billed as $0.00; those made from Jan. 12 to 19 will be credited on a future bill. Also, customers currently enrolled in Verizon’s International Single Rate calling plan with either 300 or 500 minutes of long-distance calling can call Haiti without using any minutes from their time-allotment blocks. Text-messaging fees to Haiti still apply.

• T-Mobile customers can make phone calls to and from Haiti without international long-distance charges until Jan. 31, also retroactive from Jan. 12. Any customers already in Haiti will be able to make free roaming calls through the end of the month, or have those charges removed from future bills. Text messages are not included.

• Sprint is waiving fees for text messages sent to and from Haiti between its customers from Jan. 19 to 31. However, phone calls will be charged at the regular rate, and text-messaging fees will be applied to customers roaming on other networks.

• AT&T has donated 7,000 wireless phones to a Haitian wireless carrier but has not announced any fee waiver program. However, spokesman Michael Coe tells AARP Bulletin Today that customers can later call AT&T for a bill credit for up to 60 minutes of phone calls and 60 text messages to Haiti made between Jan. 12 and 31.

• Jitterbug is providing free phone calls and text messages to Haiti through Jan. 31, retroactive to Jan. 12, no matter what calling plan a customer has.

Each wireless provider is involved in an ongoing campaign in which customers can text “Haiti” to 90999 to make a $10 donation to the American Red Cross, which will appear on the user’s bill. So far, at least $25 million has been pledged to the Red Cross this way, about one-fifth of the total it raised in the week following the earthquake.

The Mobile Giving Foundation has a list of organizations supporting relief efforts in Haiti that can receive text-based donations.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.