|April 25, 2001
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
TALLAHASSEE -- A telecommunications company and its former marketing agent will pay $3.1 million to settle allegations that they switched consumers to the company's long-distance telephone services without permission, Attorney General Bob Butterworth announced today.
Verizon Select Services Inc., formerly known as GTE Communications Corp., Verizon Florida Inc., and Snyder Communications Inc., including Snyder Direct Services Inc. and Snyder Communications LP, agreed to the payments without admitting any wrongdoing.
The attorney general alleged that unauthorized long-distance provider switching, known commonly as "slamming," had been carried out by Snyder Communications on behalf of GTE/Verizon, as well as by the telecommunications company's own sales personnel.
"In the case of Snyder Communications, our investigation revealed thousands of instances in which the marketing agent's representatives forged customers' signatures to switch them to GTE long-distance," Butterworth said. "We also found that GTE's own personnel forged signatures and used deceptive tactics to get consumers to unwittingly switch to GTE long-distance. Those tactics included telling customers that in order to obtain GTE services such as caller ID and call waiting they were also required to buy the company's long-distance services."
The allegations were settled through two separate agreements, one calling for Verizon and Snyder to collectively pay $2.5 million for actions attributable to Snyder representatives and another calling for Verizon to pay $600,000 for actions attributable to its own sales personnel. Under the collective Snyder/Verizon agreement, up to $500,000 of the $2.5 million may be applied to any payments required to resolve an action still pending before the Florida Public Service Commission.
Both agreements also address consumer complaints that have been satisfied through credits, rate adjustments, long-distance provider changes and other remedies. The agreements provide that Verizon will institute a compliance program and training for its employees in Florida. Under the Snyder/Verizon agreement, Snyder Direct Services, the division of Snyder Communications which marketed GTE’s long-distance in Florida, will shut down and forever cease all operations in Florida. Snyder Communications has in turn agreed to suspend all in-person solicitations of long-distance customers for 10 years.
The investigation and agreements were handed by Assistant Attorney General Mark Fistos and Financial Investigator Jerry Lockwood.