Verizon agrees to settlement over advertising of its FiOS service‏

Nick Rees Dec. 7, 2009, 3:39pm

Anne Milgram (D)

NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - Verizon New Jersey Inc. has agreed to a settlement to resolve a lawsuit resulting from its marketing, sales, billing and customer service practices regarding its FiOS television, telephone and Internet services.

The agreement, made by Verizon with Attorney General Anne Milgram and the Division of Consumer Affairs, requires Verizon to pay $795,000 in civil penalties to the state and reimburse attorneys' fees and investigative costs.

Verizon will also provide 1,160 consumers who filed complaints about the company with a $50 prepaid gift card or allow consumers to terminate their FiOS service without an early termination fee.

The settlement also requires Verizon to retain, at its own expense, a Consumer Affairs Liaison who will, for a one year period, assess Verizon's compliance with the terms of the settlement and submit quarterly reports to the state.

"Companies must deliver services at the terms advertised and represented to consumers. This settlement demonstrates Verizon's commitment to do right by its customers and to adhere to our consumer protection laws and regulations," Milgram said.

Verizon made no admissions of liability or wrongdoing in entering into the settlement.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit filed against Verizon by the state on March 16 that alleged the company was in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act and Advertising Regulations in its advertisement, door-to-door solicitation and sale of FiOS service. The state alleged that Verizon did not provide promotional gifts advertised for consumers who signed up for the FiOS service, including flat-screen televisions.

Consumers were also allegedly charged higher prices for service than were quoted in door-to-door solicitations and advertisements.

"Consumers want crystal clear television when they sign up for FiOS and they deserve a crystal clear explanation of service terms and conditions," David Szuchman, Consumer Affairs Director, said. "This settlement ensures that consumers will get what they are promised when signing up for FiOS service."

Verizon will ensure, under terms of a final consent judgment, that its inventory levels of promotional gifts are sufficient to consumer demand and that consumers receive such promotional gifts within the represented time period. If the promotional gift supply is exhausted, an item of equal or greater monetary value will be made available.

The company will also end its practice of charging consumers a different price than that quoted in advertisements or door-to-door sales. Consumers will no longer be charged an activation fee following a sales representative's waiver of such a fee. An estimated first bill will also be reviewed with the consumer at their time of ordering. The consumer will also be advised of any estimated pro-rated amounts, one-time and monthly charges, taxes and fees.

Customers who order FiOS service through Verizon's customer service centers will be sent a copy of their estimated first bill through email or first-class mail within seven days of ordering FiOS service and provide a toll-free telephone number for consumer inquiries as to FiOs service, FiOS promotions and promotional gifts, customer service and assistance, billing and other services.

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