The state of New Jersey has agreed to settle its lawsuit against Verizon over what it claimed was a failure to live up to special offers made as part of the selling of its FiOS Internet, television, and telephone services.
New Jersey's Attorney General Anne Milgram filed suit against Verizon in March, claiming that the company failed to provide new customers special gifts such as flat-screen televisions when they signed up for service, and charged them higher prices than what was listed in solicitations and advertisements.
"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 did not admit any liability or wrongdoing in the settlement, but agreed to pay $795,000 to New Jersey for reimbursement of investigative costs and civil penalties.
The company will also offer a $50 gift card to every customer that filed a complaint, and will enable disgruntled customers to cancel their service without incurring a contract termination fee.
"Consumers want crystal clear television when they sign up for FiOS and they deserve a crystal clear explanation of service terms and conditions," said David Szuchman, director of the state's Department of Consumer Affairs. "This settlement ensures that consumers will get what they are promised when signing up for FiOS service."
The telecom giant also agreed to a long list of customer service and business reforms in order to live up to its promises. Among the conditions Verizon agreed to as part of the settlement:
• Verizon must hire and pay for its own liaison to the Department of Consumer Affairs, who will submit quarterly reports to the state on Verizon's compliance with the settlement, for the period of one year.
• Verizon has to ensure it has sufficient inventory of its special gifts, that they are sent within the specified time period, and that substitutes are available if necessary.
• Verizon is forbidden to engage in any "bait and switch" pricing for new customers, nor is it allowed to impose activation fees on new customers if a sales representative previously agreed to waive it on signup.
• Verizon must a toll-free number to address customer inquiries on billing, gifts, and other service-related issues.
ConsumerAffairs.com has regularly received complaints from New Jersey Verizon customers that they weren't getting the bargains or gifts they were promised, or that they were having problems getting the gifts. Christian of Toms River, NJ, wrote in to say that "I signed up verizon Fios back in April of 2008 and they offered a 200 gift card which I never recieved, I made countless phone calls and wrote the company a letter, which I never got a response."
Stacy, of Ridgefield Park, NJ, said that "Upon receipt of my first bill, I was charged for services that I did not request nor authorize for over 250.00! I have been trying to rectify this issue for several weeks already and not only is each representative ruder than the next but after calling different numbers, no two people have the same information regarding my account (or so they say). Now I am at the point that the bill is due in just a few days and no one can tell me how much I owe as of today and if I don't pay the bill on time, I will no longer be eligible for a free laptop!"