Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"the pot is boiling and all the best to our Island fishermen"

Tims says "the pot is boiling and all the best to our Island fishermen"
Lobster season opens Thursday
The Guardian
The Spring lobster fishery off P.E.I. will open tomorrow at 6 a.m. The decision was made this morning by Fisheries and Oceans Canada after once again consulting with fish harvester representatives in Area 24, the north shore of P.E.I., and Area 26A, involving harvesters from eastern P.E.I. and Nova Scotia.The weather conditions aren’t ideal but harvesters indicated they were confident that they could begin the season safely. DFO is advising harvesters to use caution on setting day. The season is opening a day late at the request of harvesters who felt that the winds would be too high this morning to set traps.Last year, 1,037 lobster harvesters landed just over 17 million pounds during the two-month spring season.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I Love Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders, Great For Them!

Tim says "What a great news story for these true Canadians"

Newfoundland and Labrador no longer have-not province

The Canadian PressST. JOHN’S, N.L. —

Newfoundland and Labrador, considered for generations the poor cousin of Confederation, heralded a new era of economic independence Tuesday with a budget that delivers a substantial surplus and promises for the first time to pull it off the list of `have-not’ provinces.The new economic strength of the once hard-up province is fuelled by the soaring price of oil and carries meaning that goes beyond numbers for many Newfoundlanders.There’s pride involved.“We were always the poor cousin of Confederation,” Finance Minister Tom Marshall told a news conference before tabling the budget.“Many of you, I guess like me, when you travelled the country, you would hear comments about people in this province ... being on welfare and other provinces having to provide us with revenues. Those days are over.”The news that Newfoundland is preparing to come off equalization next year for the first time since it joined Canada in 1949 came the same day that the TD Bank Financial Group predicted Ontario could receive help from the wealth-sharing equalization program in two years.The apparent reversal in fortunes is more a reflection of growing economic clout in energy-rich provinces than it is of a poor performance in Ontario, said TD chief economist Don Drummond.Still, the timing is tinged with irony because for years Newfoundlanders left their native province, lured by better economic opportunities in Canada’s largest province.No more.“We’re going to be an economic driver of this country,” Marshall said.“I think this will commence a revolution between the ears.”In Ontario, Conservative Opposition Leader Bob Runciman said that province’s slide into have-not status will result in a loss of self-esteem.“We’re sliding into the state where we have our hand out instead of providing a hand up,” Runciman said.It’s been the dream of past premiers in Newfoundland to wrestle the province off equalization.When he announced a deal 20 years ago to proceed with Hibernia, the province’s first offshore oil project, then-premier Brian Peckford was famously quoted as saying, “One day the sun will shine and have-not will be no more.”The province is poised to receive only $18 million in federal equalization payments this year, a steep drop from the $477 million it received last year.The $13.6-billion federal equalization program provides funds to poorer provinces to ensure they can provide basic government services comparable to wealthier provinces.The surplus for 2008-09 is forecast to be $544 million. Marshall also used Tuesday’s budget to revise the surplus for 2007-08 to $1.4 billion, more than five times what it projected last year.At the time, the provincial government based its projections on a US$59 barrel of oil. It has now revised that to be US$87 a barrel for the coming year.The province is using its economic transformation to trim taxes, boost education and health-care spending, while paying down some of its whopping debt.The provincial government has hiked total expenditures to $6.4 billion from $5.8 billion and intends to slash its accumulated debt to $10 billion, down from $10.3 billion the previous year.Two years ago, the debt was $11.6 billion.About $3.7 billion will be spent on education and health care, an increase of about $200 million from last year.For months, education and health-care groups have called on the government to improve the state of the province’s mouldy schools and aging hospitals.An ongoing public inquiry into botched breast-cancer tests has also highlighted the need to upgrade outdated medical equipment as well as address a glaring shortage of nurses and doctors.Cuts in personal income taxes in the budget will make Newfoundland and Labrador the province with the fourth lowest average tax rates in Canada. Two years ago, it had the highest.The surplus marks a stunning turnaround of the economic situation Williams inherited after he was first elected in 2003.At the time, the Conservative government faced a deficit close to $1 billion and the prospect of slashing public services.But now the province faces a new challenge: a decline in offshore oil production.Last year, output from its three projects dropped by 31 million barrels, and that decline is expected to continue for the next several years. So far the rising price of oil has more than offset the decline in production.

Please Say it's Not So - I've Got The Butter Melted

Wind forecast delays P.E.I. lobster season
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 CBC
With winds forecast to gust between 40 and 60 km/h on Wednesday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is delaying the start of P.E.I.'s spring lobster season by 24 hours.
'As long as nobody goes fishing, nobody is going to lose anything.'— Lobster fisherman Craig Avery
With the season opening on May 1, fishermen would be out to set their traps on Wednesday. DFO spokesman Luc Legere said the delay is required for safety reasons.
"On opening day, we always want to be extra careful because it is not like your typical fishing day because on opening day they are actually going out with all their gear on the boat," said Legere.
"We want to make sure that the water and the conditions are as favourable as possible to make sure that it is a safe start to the fishery."
Craig Avery, a lobster fisherman from the Alberton area, supports the delay.
"I guess I can live with it. My big thing is as long as nobody goes fishing, nobody is going to lose anything," said Avery.
"There is only so many lobsters there and as a rule we normally catch a good portion of what's there every year. So if nobody is setting traps, nobody is competing against each other. I think it's a good decision and like I say, safety is our main concern."
The decision affects more than 1,000 Island lobster fishermen. The wind is forecast to ease over the course of the day Wednesday.

We Wouldn't Need Weight Restrictions On Our Roads

Bikes get fix up as gas prices rise
Last Updated: Monday, April 28, 2008
CBC News
Charlottetown bike shop owners say they are doing well because of the rising price of gasoline, as people are looking for alternative ways to get around.
Gordon MacQueen of MacQueen's Bike Shop told CBC News Monday he's selling more new bikes, repairing more old ones, and upgrading older bikes as well.
"Our business in electrical conversion kits is very strong," said MacQueen.
"People who are kind of hedging their bets a little bit, and want to maybe not get a second car but don't feel like they want to become an Olympic athlete, they'll convert their bike to an electric bike."
Jared Stretch, owner of Smooth Cycle, has also noticed an increase in business.
"What we're definitely noticing is people coming in and getting their old bikes tuned up and repaired," said Stretch.
"They are telling us they want to get out on the road; they want to be able to make the hike to work."
Stretch has also noticed an increase in new bikes sales and attributes the improvement in both aspects of his business to higher gas prices, as well as increasing environmental awareness.

The Duffy's Keep On Giving, Bravo

Tim says "There are not many people as fine as Joan and Regis"
UPEI bioscience/health research centre named in honour of Regis, Joan Duffy
JIM DAY The Guardian

Regis and Joan Duffy stand in front of the research building now bearing their names. A special ceremony was held Monday to highlight the fact that the state-of-the-art bioscience and health research centre at UPEI has been named in honour of the well-known Island couple. Guardian photo by Jim Day For decades, Regis Duffy has been a respected, familiar and influential figure to the University of Prince Edward Island.Now his name literally holds a lofty place on the campus, along with his wife, Joan.The couple’s names adorn the state-of-the-art bioscience and health research centre at UPEI high up on the outside of the impressive building.True to character, Regis is humbled to see the building named the Regis and Joan Duffy Research Centre.“Well, we’re delighted because this is a very important building in this community,’’ he said of the centre, where researchers from UPEI, the National Research Council Institute for Nutrisciences and Health (NRC-INH), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada collaborate on health-related research projects and contribute to the Island’s growing bioscience cluster.“It’s a product of a lot of work by a lot of people and I wouldn’t want to take too much credit for it,’’ added Regis, seemingly intent on deflecting praise.“I’m part of the process here but the university has done a great job of putting this institution here.’’Regis was the only person downplaying his massive footprint on bioscience research in P.E.I. and his sizable impact on the university as a whole.President Wade MacLauchlan was joined by Dr. Roman Szumski of NRC and Dr. Michael Mayne, deputy minister of the Office of Biosciences and Economic Innovation, to laud the significant contributions of Regis and Joan Duffy.“This research centre could not have a better name,’’ MacLauchlan said Monday during a special naming ceremony.Regis Duffy’s association with UPEI, and its predecessor St. Dunstan’s University, goes back almost 60 years. A native of Kinkora, Regis earned a bachelor of arts degree from St. Dunstan’s University in 1953, and his PhD in chemistry from Fordham University in 1962. He returned to P.E.I. where he taught chemistry at St. Dunstan’s and then at UPEI where he became the new university’s first dean of science.In 1970, Regis created Diagnostic Chemicals Ltd. (DCL Ltd.), a company that makes fine research chemicals, enzymes and blood analysis systems. In 2001, DCL Ltd. opened a new division called Bio Vectra dcl.Duffy, who recently sold DCL and shared the proceeds with employees and charities, says UPEI provided a bridge to the bioscience business world.Regis and Joan Duffy have contributed $2 million to UPEI for scholarships and health research.After serving as chair of the UPEI board of governors from 1996 to 2006, Regis was named board chair emeritus in 2007 for his contributions as a board member and chair, and for his many years of service to UPEI.Joan Duffy is a retired teacher and respected volunteer in community and cultural activities. She has been active in the family’s business enterprises from the beginning.Duffy says he still remains close to his remaining business operation. He will also be turned to as a member of the NRC advisory committee for guidance on the research centre that now bears his name — and that of his wife.“It gives me a chance to have my say,’’ he said.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don't You Just Love This Girl?

Soul diva Amy Winehouse cautioned by police over assault
Email this StoryApr 26, 7:36 AM (ET)By JILL LAWLESS

(AP) British singer Amy Winehouse arrives at a police station in London, Friday April 25, 2008, where...Full Image
p {margin:12px 0px 0px 0px;}
LONDON (AP) - Amy Winehouse left a London police station Saturday after questioning about reports that she scuffled with two men during a raucous night out. She received a formal police caution for assault.
The caution means the 24-year-old soul diva has not been charged, but the incident will remain on the record and could count against her if she is ever charged with a similar offense in future.
Winehouse spent the night at Holborn Police Station in central London after arriving for questioning Friday afternoon.
Police said a 24-year-old woman had been cautioned for common assault. British police do not identify suspects who have not been charged.
if (typeof(AAMB2) != 'undefined') document.writeln(AAMB2);
A statement released by Winehouse spokesman Chris Goodman said the singer "admitted to a common assault by slapping a man with an open hand and accepted a caution."
"Amy was fully cooperative with inquiries and apologized for the incident," the statement said
A man was quoted in tabloid newspapers as saying Winehouse hit him when he got in her way while she was playing pool at a bar in the Camden neighborhood of London. He said she also head-butted another man who was trying to hail her a cab in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Winehouse and her husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, were arrested in the Norwegian city of Bergen in October and held overnight on charges of drug possession. A video of her allegedly smoking crack hit the Internet shortly before she won five Grammys this year for her critically acclaimed album "Back to Black."
She was arrested in London in December on suspicion of attempting to interfere with a court case involving Fielder-Civil, but earlier this year police said prosecutors were no longer pursuing the matter.
Fielder-Civil is in jail awaiting trial on charges of perverting the course of justice stemming from a case in which he is accused of assaulting a barman.
Winehouse's musical career has flourished despite her erratic behavior, missed concerts and stints in drug rehab. The Sunday Times newspaper's annual Rich List this week estimated her wealth at $20 million.
Winehouse's spokesman said the singer was "looking forward to continuing her work on new music in the studio."

Pipe Dream Busted - Mall For Sale

Waterfront Place on sales block, says developer
BY JIM BROWN Transcontinetal Media
SUMMERSIDE – Waterfront Place is for sale, according to Tim Banks.Banks, president of the APM Group, said he received an unsolicited e-mail and information on the mall from Colliers International (Atlantic) Inc., based in Halifax.Banks, a Charlottetown developer who owns many properties, including malls across the Island, added he couldn't say anything else about the matter because of confidentiality requirements."I've signed a confidentiality memo. So I can't comment in response to the information they've sent out."But he did state the mall is in play."The mall is for sale."The e-mail states, in part, "Colliers' Halifax office has recently listed Waterfront Centre, a 115,000 sq. ft. retail centre, located in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, for sale."This is a truly unique opportunity to acquire almost 11.5 acres of urban waterfrontage on Prince Edward Island."Banks, stressing again he couldn't comment on the specifics of the proposal he was offered, said, in general, the market for mall developments is not promising anywhere in the region."It's a tough market being in the development business these days. The market, in general, is not a developer's market.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Working Together for Progress and Prosperity

Working Together for Progress and Prosperity
May 26, 2004by Tim Banks
Prince Edward Island is a great place to live. Our Province offers a quality of life that is unparalleled in Canada or the rest of the World. Our environment, our scenery, our heritage, our people all contribute to a wonderful community that I am very proud to be a part of. It is my dream that the Island will continue to grow and prosper and that all Islanders will participate in making our community an even better place to live in the future. I have some specific ideas of how we can make this happen. While these ideas may appear to be unrelated thoughts, in reality, they are all connected to each other. To appreciate these connections, we must look at the Big Picture. Indeed, the first step toward progress and prosperity is developing a broad perspective of the world and the issues we face. Equipped with a broad perspective, we can have an understanding of what we need to do to reach our goals.
Attitude. Looking at the Big Picture and developing a broad perspective involves a change in attitude about ourselves, about others, about our place in the World, about our expectations of government, about our capabilities. We must drop our parochial worldview and realize that we are a part of the global economy, competing and trading with players, both local and international, and dealing with local economic levers that affect and are affected by a large variety of outside factors.
We must develop a belief in our capabilities in our core industries like agriculture, fisheries and tourism. But we must also seek out new opportunities, developing a spirit of innovation in business strategies and new technologies.
We must become focussed on Service and Delivery. In order to compete in the global economy, we must provide the best level of service and delivery possible in our businesses. If we want to do business with the rest of the World, we must demonstrate our willingness to do so.
We must welcome Americans, Europeans, Asians and everyone from the rest of the World. Building walls has a more negative effect on us than it does on those on the outside.
Government and Business. We are fortunate on PEI to have control over important jurisdictional levers that affect our economy. But we must clearly communicate to our Provincial Government how to exercise this control.
Governments should not be about being "in business"; its about facilitating business growth and nurturing business skills to help Island companies compete. Whether its golf courses, shopping malls, waste management facilities, industrial parks, technology centres, and on and on, governments should stop competing with private enterprise and sell. Instead of running businesses, governments should be investng in programs that develop a spirit of enterprise and a spirit of community. Then, the marketplace would not only be free of public sector inefficiencies, but Island businesses would also gain strength and improve their competitiveness.
Politicians must stop micro-managing mistakes. Opposition is not about grandstanding but rather providing advice and ideas in the public interest. We must set aside political, religious and community differences in order to move forward. Government misadventures in business, such as Pratt & Whitney and MacKay & Hughes, should serve as political and business examples from which we can learn. The unfortunate situation with Polar Foods is only further polarized by agonizing over details. Highlighting private business issues in public debate only serves to tarnish the image of business on PEI, causing bankers and other investors to shy away from our provincial business environment. Another recent example of this is the Agra West project in Souris. The provincial Liberals tried to beat it to death, but several years later, the business is still open and employing many Islanders.
Now is the right time for the current Government to implement one of its old promises. In the Speech from the Throne of November 15, 2001, the Government sought to establish a Premier's Task Group on Economic Opportunity comprised of 12 creative and innovative Island business leaders, reporting directly to the Premier on new means to create wealth and employ Islanders. To date, no such group has met. However, a new economic direction for the Island is clearly needed right now and engaging business leaders to get involved in setting such a course is exactly the right approach.
Cooperation. We have the abilities, ambitions, resources and needs in our community that enable us to reach for our dreams and build our society. If there is anything I have learned in business, it is that anything is possible through ingenuity, hard work and working together as a community. To borrow an expression, we need to think globally, but act locally.
We need to recognize that we are part of a close-knit community. While business, by nature, involves competition, there are ways that businesses can work together on the Island. This could mean partnering on specific projects or joining in industry associations for a common cause. It could also mean discussing innovative technologies or strategies or simply buying local products from local producers or local manufacturers. We need not be afraid dealing with competitors. If Island businesses, including those in direct competition with each other, are strong, that means the overall provincial economy is strong and Islanders are working. This makes our province better able to compete nationally and globally.
We must find ways to keep young people engaged on the Island as positive contributors to our community and, at the same time, encourage young people to pursue their ambitions and ideas here on the Island. I believe that everyone has unlimited potential to help improve our society. If we can unlock the potential of our youth while at the same building sufficient economic activity and structure to slowly grow our working population, our community will continue to thrive for years to come.
Business leaders need to mentor young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities within their businesses and by providing guidance for young entrepreneurs trying to innovate and establish new businesses. By bringing young Islanders into the business community, we can develop a tradition of business spirit on the Island and, at the same time, strengthen our business capabilities in the current economic climate. Our vision of the Island can be passed on to subsequent generations of entrepreneurs who, having learned from the past, can continue to build on and improve this vision.
The approach I have set out may not be an easy undertaking, but we cannot shy away from having Big Dreams. The alternative is to face the loss of the society that our forefathers and now we have worked so hard to build. By Dreaming Big Dreams for our community, we can achieve Big Things. We can have a strong economy with many rewarding jobs and vibrant businesses. We can have progress and prosperity now and in the future if we strive vigorously to get it.

Why Toy With Success

I am compelled to respond to the news article regarding Stratford’s Core Area Plan. Let me first start by saying that there is nobody more in favour of good planning and new development in Stratford than I, but I would like to qualify that by asking “at what cost”?
The $200,000.00 report presented by Ekistics Planning Design Group starts out with a concept that calls for the creation of a New Downtown for Stratford, which they want to market as “Southport”? The majority of our Atlantic Communities are complaining about empty Downtowns and what to do with them and Stratford for some reason wants one; “Why is Stratford toying with their own success? To create this Disney-Designed Downtown, a new intersection would be developed as you came off the Hillsborough Bridge. You would then exit along a parkway over a multi-million dollar lagoon upgrade, which would accommodate this road. You would then arrive at the “Waterfront Plaza and Marina”, which they estimate would cost taxpayers $16,500,000.00, but would be closer to $25,000.000.00, not including the cost of the land. This is quite a contrast to the approach used in Cornwall for spending taxpayer’s money, or by the many Stratford taxpayers, who were recently concerned about Council spending some extra dollars on sidewalks.
Should the lagoon upgrade not be feasible, the report’s author calls for a meeting with the City of Charlottetown, and proposes pumping Stratford’s “sewage” to Charlottetown for treatment. I guess this is how they would pose the question, “We want to build a New Downtown to compete against yours, and by the way, do you mind if we pump our waste your way”?
When I asked “why the grandiose plans”? Stratford Administration told me “the Community was demanding that the last piece of Commercial land available in the Town had to be preserved for future controlled development.” I am not saying that isn’t an unreasonable request, but from a pure execution process, it would have been more cost effective for the Town to have secured an option on the land from the owner, prior to creating an unrealistic value in the seller’s mind. Council could then put the $3,500,000.00 plus asking price in front of the taxpayers, and it would be a true test of whether there was real support, for preserving this piece of land to support boat owners.
This plan for Downtown calls for 180,000 sq. ft. of small commercial space, with 600 residential units above them, all built around streets paved with cobblestone. The design standards set out for the buildings in the Downtown are straight out of a Town called “Celebration”, which was built and developed by Walt Disney, but in Disney’s case, he had millions of well healed customers who could afford this type of product. I don’t know of an example anywhere else, where a community of 6,500 people has achieved the building of a New Downtown, on this scale.
The report then moves on to what is called the “Town Centre Core” and the “Mason Road Core” and without getting into too much detail, the consultants have taken a lot of liberties without consulting the property owners. In my own case, they are proposing a sizeable pond in the middle of our Home Hardware parking lot, when what we really need is some more retail neighbors to give some choice to our residents. With reckless abandonment for cost implementations, and without consulting the land owners, they have clearly painted a picture of a plan that does not appeal to any common sense. Stratford has an empty business park and lots of empty land around the Kinlock intersection and we should be focused on how to fill these voids before we develop a scheme to compete against them. Stratford is a great community with lots of opportunity to build trails and other amenities that improve our lifestyle. The report could have focused more on how to create opportunities for growth by building community based organizations that could put forward fresh achievable ideas. We could use an incubator mall for our business park, expansion in our retail core and affordable housing for young families and seniors all of which can be achieved by developing reasonable bylaws that would encourage private enterprise to invest. We cannot achieve growth by creating standards that people cannot afford. The new CGI project is a great example of what can be done with some good old hard work of knocking on doors and selling what we already have and we owe this to Premier Binns, Minister Currie and our MLA David McKenna as this is huge for our Community. We didn’t need a waterfront plaza, a tower clock, boat slips or ornamental ponds to get them here but we will need good schools, medical clinics, department stores, grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, health clubs, affordable housing and most of all lower taxes to keep them.
I don’t profess to have all the answers but I do know whatever those answers are, they must be based in reality. I am quite prepared to work with the Council and the Community to develop a realistic approach, and that should be done with the stakeholders, and in this case, the taxpayers.


Response to Councillor comments
Tim Banks responds to complaints about property
March 18, 2008

Members of Council,

Like the City of Summerside, APM and I are very cognizant of our “brand”, and rumours and innuendo in the public about our Company in relation to a property that we haven’t yet taken possession of causes me concern as to how APM is perceived by the public. I have had three media calls on Council ' s comments last night, and my name, along with APM’s, is being associated with an “eyesore” even though we are not the property owners. We understand Council’s desire to keep your City clean and safe , but laying blame at our doorstep without the facts is not acceptable.APM has a long history of fully developing projects , bringing jobs, investment and choice to Summerside , such as the Granville Street Plaza, the new Canadian Tire, Wal-Mart, Superstore, Northgate Apartments, etc... and until we get possession of this property we don’t think Council should be discussing our name in Public unless it’s associated with something that is within our control.For your information we are scheduled to “close” this deal on April 4th and take over the property then. As you are probably aware, the retail development climate and economy is kind of “in the toilet” these days and although we believe we may have something immediate for part of the property, we don’t want to put any big plans out there until they are achievable, as we like to deliver on our promises. In the interim it is our intention, once we take control of the property, to clean up the graffiti and safely secure the property until we have a firm deal to develop it. We would be prepared to sit down “off the record” and discuss such with whoever Council would like to represent them. For the record, there is asbestos roof sheeting in the existing roof system which is quite safe and only has to be dealt with environmentally if we decide to demolish parts of the existing building, which may or may not happen, depending on who we secure as end users for the property. APM are firm believers in Summerside and we want to bring more jobs, investment and choice to the City. We will undertake to do our best, but let’s start off on the right foot and not raise the bar of expectations too high, as was done in the case of the Waterfront Mall Development.

Red Tape by Bob Sullivan

Paying cash? That'll cost extra
Posted: Friday, April 25 at 05:00 am CT by Bob Sullivan
Rhonda Payne went to an AT&T Wireless store in Calhoun, Ga., recently to pay her phone bill in cash. She'd been hit by ID theft and was forced to close her checking account, so she was worried she wouldn’t be able to mail a check on time. But when she arrived at the store, she was in for a surprise.
Paying in person, she was told, costs extra -- $2 extra.
Payne objected to the "administrative charge" that was added to her bill but got no sympathy. Instead, she said, she was told she should consider herself lucky because the fee was about to go up to $5.
"I was told that it was a courtesy to take cash,” she said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?'”
It’s no joke. Beginning earlier this year, AT&T Wireless began to charge customers who pay their bills in their stores.
"It is a way of saving money ... it helps us keep our costs lower," said AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel. "We want our associates to spend their time helping customers as they are thinking about their wireless plans or looking at phones."
There are multiple ways for consumers to pay their bills for free, he added -- in the mail, by electronic payment and on the Web. There are even kiosks in stores where bill payments can be dropped off for free. But having a sales clerk take the payment costs extra.
"If someone really wants to pay using the service of a representative, we think it's appropriate to assess this fee," Siegel said.
The fee might remind some of the "talk-to-a-teller" fee introduced by First National Bank of Chicago in 1995. Siegel said such fees are routine in other industries, too, citing credit cards as an example.
In fact, most credit card issuers do charge a similar fee, called "pay-to-pay." Consumers who call up banks to pay their credit card bills -- often at the last minute to avoid interest charges or late fees – often are assessed "pay-to-pay" fees ranging from $5 to $15. The practice has recently drawn scrutiny in Congress, and a credit card reform bill introduced by Sen. Carl Levin , D-Mich., would ban the practice.
Hurts the poor mostConsumer advocate Ed Mierzwinski, director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said he's concerned about AT&T's new fee for another reason: It hits poor people hardest because they are most likely to pay in stores.
"It's targeted at people who don't have bank accounts,” he said. “...It's punitive and largely indefensible."It's just unfair to me and I'm shocked by it. People that have less money have to pay more to pay their bills. … It hurts people that really don't have a choice."
Studies show that 10 million to 12 million Americans don't have bank accounts and have to pay their bills in cash, he said. Some are undocumented workers; others are consumers who have bounced too many checks in the past and are ineligible for checking accounts. Sometimes called the "unbanked," consumers who live in this cash economy are finding it harder and harder to maintain basic services, Mierzwinski said.
"I think (AT&T’s fee) is going to lead to more companies charging more to people who want to pay with cash," he said.
Siegel denied that AT&T was targeting cash customers and said his company offers pay-as-you-go pre-paid phones that are better suited for consumers who want to pay in cash.Payne has complained to state regulators and to the Federal Communications Commission, but hasn't received a refund -- or an explanation that satisfies her.
"This fee charged by AT&T is ripping off poor people," she said. "I've told everybody I know about this."