updated 03:40 pm EDT, Thu March 19, 2009
NJ sues Verizon over FiOS
The state of New Jersey's Division of Consumer Affairs has filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against Verizon for allegedly using "deceptive and misleading" marketing practices for its high-performance fiber-optic FiOS television, telephone and Internet services. The lawsuit states Verizon broke the state's Consumer Fraud Act by misrepresenting and omitting material facts in its promotion of the FiOS service.
"This is a classic case of bait and switch," said Attorney General Anne Milgram. The four-point lawsuit states some subscribers had to endure extended waiting periods for or never did get the 19-inch LCD TV set promised by the company, while others received bills that were higher than originally expected and had difficulties getting them adjusted.
Dennis Bone, the president of Verizon New Jersey, responded to the allegations, saying the issues raised relate to the service's launch nearly two years ago in New Jersey and have largely been addressed. He said Verizon will work with the attorney general and resolve remaining issues and ensure customers are satisfied. Complaints to Consumer Affairs numbered 266 in New Jersey alone, and included issues related to billing, marketing, sales and customer service, which led to the investigation and civil charges. Some of the complaints had to do with promises made by door-to-door salespeople contracted out by Verizon, including waivers on activation fees which reportedly never materialized.
Verizon spokesman Rich Young said the delay in delivering the free televisions was due to overwhelming consumer response, as the company gave away 40,000 sets in the state. Violation of New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act is punishable by up to $10,000 for the first instance and as much as $20,000 for every subsequent one.