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US soldiers 'ripped off' by airport phones

The Local · 2 Mar 2012, 12:57

Published: 02 Mar 2012 12:57 GMT+01:00

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The company, BBG Global, is the target of US military personnel’s outrage over the prices for service personnel to make calls from German airports - which are often stopover points on the way to warzones.

A story in Thursday’s edition of The New York Times said army Specialist Reynald Matias was charged $51 for a two-minute call made to his wife in Tacoma, Washington from the Leipzig-Halle Airport.

Matias made the call from a pay phone in the terminal’s “troops only” lounge and charged it to his debit card.

Other soldiers reportedly paid $83.92 for about four minutes of calls from one of the Leipzig phones and $39 for a three minute call from the Frankfurt Airport.

Army Sgt. Jeremy Burnes told NBC News he was stunned to be charged $176.25 for two calls of under 5 minutes each from Leipzig to tell his wife he was safely out of Iraq.

“There’s no sign or anything like that,” Burnes said. “It was a rip-off.”

The Times said BBG Global, based in Switzerland, handles the calls from Leipzig and some service from Frankfurt and there have been numerous complaints against the company of a similar nature to Burnes'.

The Leipizig-Halle airport is well aware of the problem, spokesman Uwe Schuhart told The Local. It has received numerous complaints about the fees and passed them onto BBG.

As of last year the airport also posted signs – in English – informing soldiers that they could buy a telephone card from the airport for $16 and with that card they would incur no credit card fees.

Corder has filed a class-action lawsuit against BBG Global, demanding that BBG and other companies that provide service from Leipzig repay service members who used the military-only phones.

The Times reported that BBG Global said, in a statement, that a German-based company that operates the phones actually sets the rates. The sergeant’s lawyer doesn’t think that is true.

BBG also said its rates are the same as for anyone else making an international operator-assisted credit card call from a German pay phone, but soldiers countered that their pay is not comparable to that of business travellers.

Story continues below…

“Any accusation, or inference, that American military personnel are being targeted with inflated rates is untrue and offensive,” BBG told the Times.

But according to the Times, the BBG has been keeping rates vague intentionally.

The bureau has had 453 complaints over the last three years about BBG, most of which are unresolved.

The Local/mw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:30 March 2, 2012 by investigativeguy
SO why does the airport allow BBG to charge the troops $41 a minute? The answer is that the airport gets a commission from every overcharge of the troops.

If you are a victim of BBG go to BBGovercharge.com and register a complaint.The troops wants refunds!
19:56 March 2, 2012 by Bushdiver
You guys are a bunch of cry baby's. You could have bought a phone card, simple as that. I like to know who these GI's think they are anyway. They collect combat pay, all kinds of benefits from the government and 90% of these so called war heroes have never even seen combat except maybe on CNN. The real war heroes ended with WWII and Korea. Even the guys in Vietnam had a much tougher opponent than the Arabs you guys are crying about. I know, I was there. Todays's military are just pampered babies. Bottom line is you used the phones so pay the bill and quit always looking for handouts.
20:00 March 2, 2012 by zeddriver
I do feel bad for the troops. But! When you pick up that phone and make a call without knowing the rates is at best a very foolhardy act. Higher command needs to send out a memo to make sure the troops are briefed. As they say. Caveat Emptor. Never ever should anyone buy an item or service without knowing what it costs. It really is that easy.
21:45 March 2, 2012 by iche
if they are dumb enough to join the US army, then can you expect them to be intelligent enough for buying something without knowing the price they are paying.

21:49 March 2, 2012 by frankiep

I am a vet myself (although wasn't around for Vietnam and left the military in 2005) but I COMPLETELY agree with everything you just said. It has gotten to the point that I am embarrassed to say that I was once a part of the US military thanks to seemingly increasing number of loudmouth, crybaby, entitlement mentality troops. But the worst, in my opinion, is the manufactured cries of righteous indignation exhibited by so many military members today over what they view as unforgivable insults and acts of treason. The average US military member earns a base salary which makes them better off than civilians with similar skills and education, plus they earn even more money if they have dependents, earn even more (tax free) if they are deployed, are provided with free housing, free healthcare, and can literally earn numerous advanced university degrees at no out of pocket cost, yet many will still cry poverty if anyone dares to suggest that their pay raise next year be cut from 4 percent to 3.5 percent. To top it off, Americans everywhere are required to worship everything single thing they do as an act of unbelievable heroism or face being branded as "unpatriotic".

I cannot make myself feel bad for them. Every single person in the US military volunteered for the job knowing full well the addiction that the US government has for sending troops into third world hell holes for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with "Defending Our Freedoms".
22:18 March 2, 2012 by SchwabHallRocks
Hey kids,

1) A few guys are using the phones, not the whole US Army. This is not a crisis.

2) Not everyone in the US Army is "worldly" in thier experience. We all know soldiers and non-soldiers alike who have done really stupid things like send money with Western Union or take "pay day" loans from pawn shops.

3) Sure, the airport is in collusion with the phone company since they get a percentage, or at least a fixed monthly fee.

4) The soldiers are no more crybabies, compared to their elder soldiers, than the rest of the population at large. We need Congress to: 1) pay for our birth control; 2) tell banks to reduce ATM fees; 3)teach our idiot population how to exercise and eat; 4) keep GM afloat; 5) pay peoople to trade in cars; 5) pay off mortgages of people who can't balance their personal budget, etc, etc, etc.

Frankly I don't give an F about the USA anymore and wonder why the hell I served in the military. To defend what? A nation of crybabies.
00:32 March 3, 2012 by Whipmanager
Bushdiver and Frankiep: I retired in 2000. I will say the US Military needs to go after people who price Gouge when they learn of it. People get taken advantage of often but hey, when you find out about it you should fix the problem. If these phones are in the US Only area, a GI often feels someone has vetted and ensured they are not being ripped off. This needs to be fixed because that is what Americans do for Americans.

Are they whiners? No more than anyone else. this generation of youth look at things differently, but, I bet that they are seeing more danger than Frankiep has and probably more then many who retired in the last 10 years or before but after Viet Nam.

Swab wrote: "Frankly I don't give an F about the USA anymore and wonder why the hell I served in the military. To defend what? A nation of crybabies."

SchwabHalRocks: Dude, give up your citizenship, give any SSAN money you get back and please, stay away from the US. You hate it so much, you should have integrity and just chuck it all and forget about it. I bet -if you are retired US Military, you still enjoy that Paycheck, however small it may be. Things may be bad in the US, but I still think a great many people want to be American, move there and have the life you can have there. So do yourself and America a favor, opt out of our Citizenry.

The military kids are not over paid. I remember COMBAT pay meant no extra money, but getting what you did get tax free, with some incidental Per diem. Yes they do get money each month for Food (sep Rats) and maybe a bit more fr kids/wife (With Dep Rate) but the fact is it is still less that one needs to live and save. The military is no place to go and get rich.

frankiep: Now, the US Military make a living, it isn't great. They volunteered and get paid. The civilians of equal training (prior to military training) don't make it? Well it is their problem for not enlisting or signing up. But once a soldier is trained, they hav eskills teh civy counterpart doesn't have so it is no longer equal. Boolian Algebra: Everyone in the Civy set and the Military have the same skills, but the skill set of the Military is bigger and includes things the Civy doesn't/can't do for lack of training. The prices of things went up, and the pay didn't. The real inflation is nearer to 8 percent and if the payraise is 3.5% they lost a huge 4.5% wages. They are losing ground. Military around the world are underpaid. you are jus tan idiot that has no clue.
03:04 March 3, 2012 by Yah right

Here you go AGAIN. ALWAYS the know-it-all expert, on everything financial, from HOOKERS to GI's.

Why don't you just STFU and mind your own private USA business.

We don't appreciate your kind here.

The people here who are US citizens, who also have served in the military of the US are ENTITLED to their opinions WITHOUT being told, by the likes of you to give up their citizenship, their SSAN money, or anything else.

ISN'T IT FREEDOM of expression that you claim to fight for?

so, just shut the FUKK UP!
07:32 March 3, 2012 by auslanderus
@Ya right

Whipmanager does have a right like to voice his ideas even if you don't like what he says or maybe he is saying something thats the truth and you don't like it. You see, I am a Nam vet and I did spend 15 years in the service of my country. I am proud of that and I did it by choice. I do agree with what he Whipmanager says so you can tell me to STFU also if you want. But I will not STFU because of a person like yourself. So thank you for your ideas no matter how stupid they are.
08:25 March 3, 2012 by Bushdiver
@ Whipmanager............Just to add that Americans today are brainwashed into thinking that they are much better than people from any other country much like the military being brainwashed to think they are above other military personal from other countries. I do not feel sorry for todays US military. They are well paid, have many benefits that in my opinion were not even earned. I hear these guys always complaining about missions they are sent on, the stress they are forced to endure and each time I hear things like this it makes me wonder what they would have said had they been around for the landings on Normandy or the hills in Korea or the bush in Vietnam. Those guys actually fought a formidible enemy. This whole military thing in America has been blown out of purportion. You have the military in every aspect of life in the US. Hell, you can't even watch the Superbowl without having token GI paraded around. You have your opinion and we have ours. I think America has been going down the wrong road for many years. If I or SchwabHalRocks, frankiep or others have differnent opinions than yours that is how it is, but don't give me the poor GI is living just above the poverty level. Fact is that todays military have it much better that those of the past. Also you don't go into a fancy resturant and order a meal without knowing what the price is. The same applies to using phones at the airport. You know it's well known that there are prepaid phone cards available to anyone.
09:01 March 3, 2012 by frankiep
Whipmanagers comments typify the exact kind of military worshipping (or in the case of many military members, self worshipping) mentality which has saturated American culture. To recap, those who don't bow down at the alter of the Almighty US troop and who have the nerve to say that those in the US military are actually compensated (both in salary and unbelievable benefits) very, very well are idiots without a clue, unworthy of their "protection", and should give up their citizenship and keep their mouths shut. We are all supposed to think that the US military bombing villages in third world countries like Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is equivalent to "Defending America's Freedoms". The sad/scary thing is that there are so many Americans with exactly the same mentality as Whipmanager.
09:08 March 3, 2012 by mos101392

Army Specialist Reynald Matias was charged $51 for a two-minute call made to his wife.

Get a grip people. Are you all idiots? With VOIP there is no reason to pay those prices. The person/s responsible are those that oversaw the original contract for the phone in that "Troops only" lounge. As a retired American soldier myself. when I see a "troops only" lounge, I assume the best intentions. However, being in Europe one must understand that the Europeans will gouge any cent they can and from whomever and it does not matter.

Whether you want to call your loved one or tell someone you know has died does not matter to these people...it's all about the money! Trust me, I live in Germany.

Again, it is up to the persons who operate those "troops only offices" that can make or control contracts. You have to ask yourself what they themselves are racking in? I'm sure they will say they have bills to pay like rent, elect, ect

I have bought a phone card for $10 and have called home to California from Germany every week for 3 months, (not sure if it was 200 or 500 minutes).

These ripoff artists are just taking advantage of American soldiers because they know they are new and unfamiliar with the airport they land in.

I have an idea to bring all these companies in the media and expose them for the thieves they are!

Delete this and I will expose you!
09:53 March 3, 2012 by ChrisRea
@ mos101392

'being in Europe one must understand that the Europeans will gouge any cent they can and from whomever and it does not matter.'

That's a pretty good example of what Bushdiver posted ('Americans today are brainwashed into thinking that they are much better than people from any other country ').
10:23 March 3, 2012 by mos101392

Bushdiver is not a good example. He sounds as if he has issues since he left the military. Not my problem! If he has a $hit job after the military and hates everything about the US Military, that's his problem!

I'm against any US military intervention that the end result is financial gain but I am for any US military intervention that does not gain financially for the powers that be.

However, the soldiers are only a pawn, yes, they volunteered, but it does not give the right for the vultures to prey on them.

I believe the vultures need to be preyed upon and I hope to find a way!
10:30 March 3, 2012 by ChrisRea
@ mos101392

You did read which of Bushdiver's statements I referred to, right?

But now that you mentioned, I hope you realise that all US military interventions are done with a financial end in mind.
10:40 March 3, 2012 by bugger
1. There is no such thing as a class action lawsuit existing in the German legal system https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sammelklage

2. European travelers to the U.S. have been experiencing bad price surprises with public airport phones all over the States since decades.
10:42 March 3, 2012 by mos101392

Thank you for your quick response.

However, I do disagree that not 'ALL' is for financial gain. I spent 1 yr in Bosnia and don't think they had any massive oil reserves/deposits and 6 mths in Macedonia and don't think America gained financially from them either.

I also do not want to believe that so many NATO soldiers died in Afghanistan so the west can profit from their opium.
11:17 March 3, 2012 by Bushdiver
@ mos101392...........Quite the contrary. I've had good jobs since leaving the military and am now happily retired. I am not against the military. I just think that today's military are brainwashed into thinking they are the worlds heroes. They are very well paid these days and the benefits are passed out like candy to children. Most of these guys have never even seen any action but still are given tons of benefits because they happened to be in the area. Todays's GI's are pampered and they are still crying about everything. Again vultures would not prey on them if they were to use some common sense. Had they bought prepaid phone cards they problem wouldn't have occured. Also gouging doesn't just occure in Europe. Maybe you haven't been to America lately. There are just as many rip-offs there as in Europe. Ignorance is no excuse. By the way, I live in Germany also probably a lot longer than you.
11:53 March 3, 2012 by mos101392

@ ChrisRea

Ok Guys, sounds to me we think the same however we both know, (as US military), you understand the feeling you have when you arrive in a foreign airport. I'm also retired US Army and live in Germany and have moved extensively.

As the world economics are understood, take what you can and when you can. I understand that your purchasing mistakes are your own, However, there is a certain understanding when you are a young 19.20 yr old arriving at an airport after a deployment to $hitland and you see a sign for, (Troop Lounge).

Once seeing this, you have a sense of relief! And once entering the establishment your guard is down and then come the vultures.

Help me find a way to be a vulture to the vultures.

If your take is about the money...lets find a way to make money from BBG Global!
11:55 March 3, 2012 by ChrisRea
@ mos101392

You do make the difference between US military interventions and NATO military interventions (where US have to participate militarily), right? I hope you do not believed the US government when it stated that the military intervention in Afghanistan has the purpose of finding the top management of al-Qaeda and to put them on trial for the September 11 attacks. We all saw how willing the US government was to put Osama bin Laden on trial.
12:21 March 3, 2012 by mos101392

Yes, I understand the difference. Iraq and Afghanistan were a waste, But the way Bin Laden was disposed of in my opinion , was better then when I throw out my own trash! Unfortunately!

The peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan could care less about the West's interpretation of democracy and I am ashamed that we have spent billions of $s and countless lives for those cockroaches.

Their problems are not mine!!!
13:02 March 3, 2012 by Bushdiver
@ mos101392..........I understand where you are coming from as far as the GI's feeling relaxed in a troop lounge. This again isn't so much the fault of the comany ripping off the GI's. It's more the fault of the military running these lounges that let things like this happen. I mean this isn't a new problem but an on going one. I doubt there is a way of getting money out of BBG. Laws covering such business practices in Europe are much different that in the US. What could have saved this from happening would have been as simple as posting a message where the phones were located informing everyone of the charges involved before they made the calls. I also agree that the US involvment in all these Arab countries is a waste of time, money and lives. I'd just let them kill eachother off. There are more than enough problems in the US to work on.
14:23 March 3, 2012 by mos101392

I agree with your last comment 110%

It would have been better and cheaper for all those involved if I a "warning" sign, as you suggested, was posted near the phone.

Maybe there is a way of cloning or hacking one of BGB's phones and using their number to create an astronomical telephone bill :-) Awe.....jus kidding! :-)
17:40 March 3, 2012 by maxbrando
Wait a minute! What in the world are U.S. soldiers doing in Leipziz or Halle?? We have no troops there and have not had any since the end of WW 2.
17:53 March 3, 2012 by ATM
I feel for the troops having being a vet myself. But this is a crisis. I mean even airport phones in the states are super expensive and overpriced. They should have known this. It would be better to complain to the Airport Authority to get the phones out of there or get a company that is more reasonable. Anyone using those phones is subject to price gouging by these companies. I mean even the airport food concessions charge high prices for the junk food they serve.
21:04 March 3, 2012 by Berlin fuer alles
Send an air raid to get revenge.
09:12 March 5, 2012 by Yah right
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
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