Qwest Settles Slamming Suit

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Telecommunications provider Qwest Communications International Inc., Denver,

yesterday agreed to settle a lawsuit that it switched consumers' telephone

service without their consent. The company settled the lawsuit the same day

it was filed by Arizona State Attorney General Janet Napolitano.

The lawsuit alleged that Qwest used letters of authorization that were

forged by a third party to switch consumers' phone service, began billing

consumers for fees associated with long-distance service before knowing

whether the orders to change the service had been approved or rejected and

continued to bill consumers who had cancelled their service. The suit also

alleged that Qwest hired a telemarketing firm that offered consumers who

switched to Qwest a pair of airline tickets if they kept the service for 60

days, but did not tell the consumers about the restrictions on the tickets

and in some case did not provide the tickets.

These violations of Arizona's consumer-protection laws were alleged to have

taken place between 1997 and 1999.

Qwest, without admitting liability, agreed to pay $175,000 in legal expenses

to the AG's office and also agreed to fund a public service advertising

campaign. The company also will have to reimburse consumers the cost of

switching their long-distance service and any savings that they might have

lost by switching to Qwest from their previous provider. Qwest also agreed

to obtain express written consent before changing anyone's phone service and

to make other concessions concerning its marketing practices.

Qwest said it initiated an anti-slamming policy last year and fired "more

than 30 sales agents and/or telemarketing agencies that filed false orders.

"We have zero tolerance for slamming and are continually evaluating and

enhancing our anti-slamming efforts," the company said in a prepared


Some of the measures the company has implemented include using third parties

to verify about 80 percent of all sales, incorporating significant monetary

penalties for slamming in sales agents' contracts and a zero-tolerance

policy for forging a customer's signature. The company also hired an

independent auditor to conduct annual examinations of its anti-slamming


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