Remember Verizon's promise to buy its FiOS customers flat-screen television sets and other promotional gifts? Well, the state of New Jersey says the company failed to deliver in many cases, and the state has filed suit against the telecom giant.
The Office of the Attorney General through its Division of Consumer Affairs has filed suit against Verizon New Jersey, Inc., alleging that its marketing, sales, billing and customer service practices for its FiOS television, telephone and internet services are deceptive and misleading.
The state also alleges that Verizon charged consumers higher prices for service than prices quoted in door-to-door solicitations and advertisements and also charged activation fees after consumers were told that such would be waived.
"FiOS is touted for its clearer picture but Verizon obscured the truth from potential customers in its advertising and sales pitches," New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram said. "Deception and misrepresentations have no place in the marketplace and we will hold businesses accountable when they violate the public's trust."
In its four-count complaint filed in State Superior Court in Essex County, the state alleges that Verizon violated the Consumer Fraud Act through unconscionable commercial practices, misrepresentations and knowing omissions of material facts, as well as the Advertising Regulations.
The state specifically alleges that Verizon engaged in the following conduct:
• Quoting one price for FiOS Service in door-to-door solicitations, direct mail advertising and otherwise, then billed consumers at a higher price;
• Charging consumers an activation fee, after the salesperson in the door-to-door solicitation waived the fee;
• Charging consumers for services, such as movie packages, that were never ordered;
• Representing that movie packages were free, then billing consumers for such services;
• Advertising promotional gifts, yet failing to provide consumers with the opportunity to contract for the types of FiOS service necessary to obtain the promotional gifts;
• Using the term "additional charges apply" in advertisements, without providing a description of those charges;
• Failing to provide consumers with the rewards letter or other instructions necessary to receive their promotional gifts;
• Failing to provide consumers with a copy of their signed contract;
• Representing that consumers are entitled to receive promotional gifts, but failing to provide promotional gifts;
• Providing consumers with promotional gifts only after significant delay and/or after consumers made repeated calls or other contacts with Verizon;
• Billing consumers at a price other than that initially quoted;
• Billing, on a monthly basis, inconsistent amounts to the same consumers with the same services;
• Failing to honor a consumer's request to cancel the FiOS service; and
• Making it very difficult (i.e. long delays, varied telephone numbers) for consumers to reach a customer service representative in order to address or resolve issues as to promotional gifts, services and/or billing.
"Verizon conducted a very aggressive marketing campaign to introduce its FiOS service, which included promotional gifts that were never to be provided," said David Szuchman, New Jersey's Consumer Affairs Director. "We will seek to ensure that Verizon complies with all relevant laws when advertising and selling services and products."
To date, the Division has received 266 consumer complaints related to FiOS marketing and sales.