Verizon sues over unwanted cell calls

Wireless giant alleges 2 telemarketing firms used illegal dialer devices

State suits are filed in N.J., Calif.

September 01, 2005|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

Verizon Wireless announced yesterday that it had filed separate civil suits against two telemarketers, alleging they violated federal and state laws by making more than 1.4 million unsolicited calls to its cell-phone subscribers this summer.

Citing invasions of privacy and violations of consumer-protection laws, Verizon Wireless sued Intelligent Alternatives LLC of San Diego and Resort Marketing Trends LLC of Coral Springs, Fla. With more than 47 million subscribers, Verizon Wireless is the nation's No. 2 wireless carrier.

Both telemarketers were allegedly making calls to Verizon Wireless subscribers about "time-share" vacation properties. Intelligent Alternatives made an estimated 1.13 million calls to Verizon cell-phone users since June, while Resort Marketing made another 280,000 calls since July, according to documents filed by Verizon in state court suits in New Jersey and California.

Neither company could be reached for comment late yesterday.

Wireless users in some parts of the country - including Texas, New Jersey and California - have experienced an uptick in the number of unsolicited and sometimes-illegal telemarketing calls being made in recent months.

But Verizon Wireless said the two telemarketers' use of banned devices - as well as the huge call volumes they generated - forced the carrier to court.

"We thought this was significant enough to take these actions," said Tom Pica, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, which is based in Bedminster, N.J. "We believe this suit to be the first of its kind."

The federal "do-not-call" list was not the cause of action, but the use of banned automated dialers, Verizon Wireless said.

Verizon Wireless said it recommends that consumers who don't want those calls should place their wireless numbers on the do-not-call list.

It noted that consumers increasingly are using their wireless phones as their main telephones, which could boost their exposure to telemarketing calls.

Verizon Wireless is a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. of New York and Vodafone Group PLC of Great Britain.

Verizon Wireless sued Intelligent Alternatives in state Superior Court in Sacramento, Calif., and Resort Marketing in state Superior Court in Somerville, N.J. Those two states contain the largest numbers of Verizon subscribers - including many company employees - who complained about receiving the alleged pitches, Pica said.

Verizon Wireless is seeking unspecified monetary damages in both cases, as well as preliminary and permanent injunctions to keep the companies from making any more calls.

Verizon Wireless said the "telemarketing campaign" being waged against its subscribers by Intelligent Alternatives benefited from the use of the automatic-dialing devices and pre-recorded messages.

Both are illegal under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and California state Public Utilities Code and Unfair Competition Law, Verizon Wireless said.

Resort Marketing Trends employed similar devices, constituting similar federal and state infractions, the firm said.

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