Thursday, January 18, 2001
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Posted on: Thursday, January 18, 2001

Irate consumers file claim against Verizon

Advertiser Staff and News Services

Verizon Communications is being sued by customers frustrated when it took weeks or months to get their high-speed Internet access installed. The class-action effort is an attempt to stop Verizon from signing new subscribers, while forcing compensation of existing customers.

Lawsuit information

The complaint, filed this week in Superior Court for the District of Columbia, alleges that Verizon was aware that it would be unable to provide high-speed service as promised and knew that its customers would experience significant disruptions and delays in obtaining technical support.

The claim alleges that Verizon signs up more than 3,000 new customers per day while knowing that the company cannot support so many. Larry Plum said yesterday that the company had not seen the complaint and would not comment on it specifically, but that Verizon is working hard to satisfy customers.

"The industry is only a couple years old, it uses a very sophisticated technology, and it’s seen rapid growth with the attendant stress and strain," Plum said. "At Verizon we support DSL, we continue to support DSL, and we stand behind the service."

DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line, and, like cable modems, provide much faster Internet access than through traditional phone lines.

Plum said the company has about 540,000 high-speed Internet subscribers and deals with irate customers on a case-by-case basis, sometimes offering refunds.

Verizon Hawaii spokesman Kevin Imanaka said that in the Islands, Verizon does not sell DSL service itself to customers. The lines, about 4,700 so far, have been sold through local Internet Service Providers since September 1998.

It now takes two to three weeks for Hawaii consumers to receive DSL service once it’s ordered, Imanaka said. "We don’t expect any changes to our policies in Hawaii when we introduce Verizon Online sometime this year," he said.

Bruce and Leslie Forrest, plaintiffs in the class-action Mainland suit, say they signed up for the service in August. After calls to technical support, long hold times and service calls, the Forrests canceled their service in frustration in December.

While the suit does not list specific monetary damages, the class members could receive several hundred dollars in compensation for their problems, said Gary E. Mason, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

"There are customers out there who have had months of delay or significant disruptions," Mason said. "If the cost is $40 a month, people would expect to get some credit of that because they’re not getting what they’re paying for."

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