N.J. sues Verizon over ads for FiOS services

Thu, 03/19/2009 - 8:20am
Bruce Shipkowski, The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey sued Verizon Wednesday, claiming it used "deceptive and misleading" marketing practices for its FiOS television, telephone and Internet services.

The company, though, said most of the issues raised in the litigation stem from the startup of the business two years ago and have since been addressed, for the most part.

The four-count lawsuit filed by the state Consumer Affairs Division alleges Verizon New Jersey failed to provide advertised promotional gifts — such as flat-screen televisions — when consumers signed up for FiOS service.

It also claims Verizon charged consumers higher prices for service than those quoted in door-to-door solicitations and ads. Verizon also allegedly charged activation fees after consumers were told those costs would be waived.

"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, the state's director of Consumer Affairs. "We will seek to ensure that Verizon complies with all relevant laws when advertising and selling services and products."

For more than a year, Verizon and cable companies in New Jersey have competed to be the sole link between households and high-definition TV, high-speed Internet and high-quality phone service. Both sides have heavily marketed the combined services for monthly rates under $100.

Verizon New Jersey President Dennis Bone disputed the allegations made in the lawsuit.

"Verizon FiOS TV and broadband products are the best in America, and we are working to ensure that every customer has an outstanding FIOS experience that meets and exceeds the customer's expectations," he said.

"We believe that the issues raised by the attorney general are related primarily to the startup of the FIOS business nearly two years ago in New Jersey and have been largely addressed," Bone added. "We will continue to work with the Attorney General to resolve any remaining concerns and to ensure that our customers are fully satisfied."

Verizon could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation. State officials say they've received nearly 270 complaints about marketing, sales, billing and customer service for FiOS.

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