Public Service Commission
As a public law matter, if called before a Public Service Commission on its policy, DWI will apparently have to acknowledge that it has minimal control over the selection of customers, goods, and services provided by its 900 numbers. By serving as a billing agent for a dating service, it is trying to collect have repeated calls from a 12 year old and his friends, who are presumably of a similar age. Given the prevalence of fundamentalists in the areas around Mountaintop, N.C., we can expect to be accused of pimping.
Any hearing could damage our standing. As a public carrier, we are restricted in our right to refuse services to commercial customers, and we will probably face a first amendment challenge if we try to impose “decency” tests on customers. From the public standpoint, I recommend that we become much more explicit about who 900 numbers belong to. We should be clear with Appalachian Bell customers that we are merely a billing agent, not endorsing any product or service involved. Further, by increasing our willingness to deal with customers in cases like this, we can cast ourselves as the allies of Appalachian Bell customers rather than as our commercial customer’s
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As a matter of private law, we will lose this case. As a matter of contract law, our customer, a dating service, has made contracts with a legal infant. The grandson, age 12, has the legal right to void these contracts, and we should expect that he will. We are bound by his decision. The most we could argue is that Ma and Pa Kettle gave their implied consent to stand as guarantors of the contracts of their grandson by allowing him into their home.
This claim will fail because a contract to guarantee the debts of another must be in writing. At a minimum, we will have to show that the Kettle knew or should have known that these charges were being incurred. This would almost undoubtedly be a jury issue, and we will not prevail. I recommend that we agree to drop these from the Kettle’s account, apologize for the inconvenience, and offer them a free block which will block all 900 numbers from their phone.
Calamari, John D. And Joseph M. Perillo. Contracts. (Minneapolis, Minnesota: West Publishing Co., 1977). Especially, the law of infants in contracts, §§ 8-2 to 8-9.