International phone cards are a cheap and convenient way of phoning overseas.
But with their ever-changing terms and conditions and all sorts of fees and surcharges, you never quite know what you'll actually end up paying.
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has been inundated with hundreds of complaints from beshonkied consumers about inaccurate, incomplete or out-of-date information.
This year, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission even took three phone card companies to court for misleading and deceptive conduct.
New industry guidelines for phone card companies now mean fees must be clearly displayed in all advertising bumph. However, that doesn't mean you pay less of them.
And what could have been a great victory for transparency was somewhat tempered by the fact that fees and charges aren't printed on the actual card.
When we looked at the market, we decided that while several cards deserve Shonky commendations for ludicrous fees and charges, phone card company Tel.Pacific should get the award for the sheer number of outrageous fees charged.
We found connection fees, disconnection fees, daily service fees from when the card is activated (even if you never use the card), per minute surcharges for using 1300 and 1800 numbers, fee rounding and block rate charges of 10 minutes or more.
The type and amount of these extra charges varies from card to card – and Tel.Pacific offers more than 80 different cards, making comparison shopping fairly arduous.
But then, why even bother? Just when you've found the optimal combination of call rates and changes, you'll note that the rates "may change without notice".