This story is part of our series on new California laws that take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.
Prepaid cell phone users in California will see some new surcharges when they buy phones or minutes next year.
The surcharges fund the 911 system and programs that provide phone services to low-income, deaf and disabled Californians.
Landline customers have long paid these charges; so have cell phone customers who sign traditional contracts with wireless companies. But prepaid cell phone users, who buy phones with one-time minutes and data, have gotten a pass – until now.
“The surcharges are now applying to all users of phones regardless of the type,” says Venus Stromberg with the California Board of Equalization. She says the exact size of the surcharge will vary by city or county: “An additional 9.26 percent of the cost and any local taxes above and beyond that.”
The prepaid phone market has exploded in recent years and now comprises up to a quarter of California’s 38 million wireless subscriptions. Dozens of other states have similar laws.
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