Verizon, marketing agent fined $3.1 million for slamming

Friday, April 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Verizon Communications Inc. and its former marketing agency were fined $3.1 million for illegally switching Florida customers' long distance telephone service without authorization.

The state Attorney General's Office said representatives of Bethesda, Md.-based Snyder Communications forged thousands of customer signatures to switch them to service provided by GTE, which is now Verizon.

Investigators also found GTE employees forged signatures and ``used deceptive tactics'' to get customers to switch service.

GTE hired Snyder Communications, at the time owned by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, to market its long distance service in 1998.

The state has received more than 3,000 complaints of so-called slamming, involving Snyder Communications and Verizon, officials said. The majority of the customers lived in South Florida.

Slamming is the act of unlawfully switching someone's local or long distance telephone service without their consent.

Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Snyder and Verizon must pay $2.5 million to a state trust fund for investigations and consumer education. Verizon also must pay an additional $600,000.

Snyder, now owned by Paris-based Havas Advertising, told state officials that previous managers are no longer with the company.

Verizon has a ``zero tolerance policy'' against slamming, said spokeswoman Briana Gowing.