NEW YORK - Verizon Long Distance is reimbursing 34,000 of its New York customers for long distance calls they made while the company worked to fix a record-keeping glitch last spring. The company also has agreed to make a voluntary $250,000 contribution to the United States Treasury under a consent decree recently negotiated with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The action comes following a comprehensive investigation by Verizon and the FCC into the improper storage of electronic records that confirm a customer's request to change from their existing long distance carrier to Verizon Long Distance.
"The company found the problem and worked quickly to fix it and notify affected customers and the FCC," said Maura Breen, group president of Verizon Long Distance. "We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience this incident caused."
Verizon Long Distance has more than one million customers in New York. The company launched its long distance business last January.
The record-keeping error occurred during the final steps of the order process, when an independent third party vendor confirms over the phone with customers that they indeed want to switch their long distance service to Verizon Long Distance.
The company discovered during a routine audit of the third party vendor's records last March that verification records for some customers had been incorrectly stored, making it difficult to track and retrieve the information and prove that verification had occurred. The FCC requires third-party verification.
The audit also showed that in some cases the Verizon customer representative may have inadvertently given incorrect information to the third-party vendor, or the vendor may have mistakenly entered wrong information into its database.
The company called affected customers to notify them of the problem and of their options to change carriers at no charge, if they wished. Verizon also sent follow-up letters to the customers it could not reach by telephone.
"We wanted to make absolutely sure that customers knew their long distance carrier had been switched to Verizon Long Distance and that is what they wanted," said Breen.
Breen said the affected customers would have realized their long distance service had been switched within days, because Verizon Long Distance mails a welcome package to each new customer and follows up with a welcome call. Customers also would have noticed the change upon receiving long distance bills that clearly indicate the switch to Verizon Long Distance.
The credits will appear on customers' bills over the next few months. The amount of the credits will vary based on the customer's long distance plan and usage.
Verizon has adopted a new set of practices to further ensure that it properly confirms every customer's change of long distance companies:
- System safeguards have been implemented to prevent Verizon representatives from completing service orders before third-party verification has occurred.
- Verizon service representatives and supervisors have been retrained to reinforce the order verification process.
- A Verizon manager has been designated to insure continued compliance on this issue.
Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), formed by the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 100 million access lines and more than 26 million wireless customers. A Fortune 10 company with more than 260,000 employees and approximately $60 billion in 1999 revenues, Verizon's global presence extends to 40 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.