DEAR ABBY: Last March, I received a $400 phone bill that included $260 in adult entertainment calls made by my 10-year-old daughter and 11-year-old niece. At first, the phone company refused to adjust the bill, then it gave me credit for half. After five months of fighting with the long-distance phone company, and countless phone calls, I finally got the whole amount credited to my account.
In the state of Oregon, the public utility commission regulates telecommunications. There is a statute that says, "Any obligation that may have arisen from the dialing of a pay-per-call is void and unenforceable if made by an unemancipated child under 18 years of age."
Every state has its own regulations, but a call to your state's public utility commissioner should clarify whether people have to pay the bill in these circumstances. People can also contact the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C.
The phone company knows it is supposed to write off the charges of such calls made by children. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of parents dispute their bill -- even though this is a frequent occurrence. I hope my letter helps other parents. -- VICTORIOUS IN OREGON
DEAR VICTORIOUS: Congratulations. I'm sure your letter will be of interest to other parents of "curious" children. Another effective preventive measure that parents can take is to put a 900 block or an international block on their phone line.
DEAR ABBY: I have some advice for the adult son of "Dad, the Morning Rooster," who can't -- or won't -- get himself up in the morning. I used to have the same problem. I, too, just couldn't wake up in the morning.
The alarm clock on my nightstand would go off, and I'd reach over, turn it off and go back to sleep. Most of the time, I never remembered having turned it off.
I realized I had to do something to keep from missing work, so I decided to make my alarm clock harder to turn off. I bought an alarm clock (a wind-up Big Ben) with bells on the outside. That night, I set the alarm, then placed the clock in a metal dishpan and shoved it under my bed.
The next morning the alarm went off and started rattling the dishpan. The noise shocked me awake. I leaped out of bed to locate the source of the racket and shut it off. (By then I had forgotten where I had put the clock.) By the time I was down on my knees, flailing around beneath the bed, I was so wide-awake I couldn't have fallen back to sleep if I had wanted to.
That young man should try my solution. I can almost guarantee it'll work every time. Sign me ... OLE SLEEPYHEAD FROM FLORIDA
DEAR OLE SLEEPYHEAD: Thank you for the helpful anecdote. For slow risers who would prefer a less radical wake-up, placing the alarm out of reach -- for instance, on the other side of the bedroom -- is a valuable suggestion.
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