California Court Reinstates SBC Suit

The California Supreme Court has reinstated a lawsuit against Pacific Bell and its subsidiary SBC Communications charging that the company made misleading statements in its marketing of caller ID blocking services to consumers.

In the ruling Dec. 15, justices wrote that lower courts were wrong to throw out a lawsuit filed against the telecom in 1999 by district attorneys in Alameda, San Mateo and Monterey counties. The lower courts had accepted Pacific Bell's argument that the state Public Utilities Commission already dealt with the issue over which the district attorneys sued and the PUC fined the company $15 million in 2001.

The Supreme Court disagreed, arguing that the two complaints were separate. The district attorneys accused Pacific Bell of having its telemarketing provider intentionally undersell caller ID blocking services to consumers to ensure bigger profits for its caller ID service.

Telemarketers represented a switch to unblocked caller ID as an upgrade rather than a downgrade, according to the complaint. In addition, Pacific Bell represented certain service packages as “basic” or “essential” when they contained optional and more expensive features.

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