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