Verizon Wireless Files First Lawsuit Against Telemarketers

By Linda A. Johnson, The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. -- Verizon Wireless has sued a pair of telemarketing companies, accusing them of illegally soliciting the company's cell phone users and making more than 1.2 million calls to its customers this summer.

Verizon Wireless said it believes its two lawsuits -- filed against Intelligent Alternatives of San Diego and Resort Marketing Trends of Coral Springs, Fla. -- are the first ever filed by a U.S. wireless company against telemarketers.

"We just consider it to be a tremendous invasion of privacy," Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Robin Nicol said Friday. "Customers look at their wireless phones as one of the last bastions of privacy that they have."

Verizon, one of the country's biggest cellular phone companies with

47.4 million customers, is seeking injunctions against further telemarketing to its customers, as well as monetary damages. The Bedminster, N.J.-based company said the telemarketers violated both the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and state laws.

The calls used prerecorded messages offering a prize or reward to those who called a toll-free number, and callers then received pitches to buy vacation time-shares, according to Nicol.

Nicol said that in July and August, Intelligent Alternatives made more than 1 million calls to Verizon Wireless customers, including 65,000 on July 20 alone, and Resort Marketing Trends made more than 200,000 calls over the two months, including 17,253 in one hour on Aug. 2.

Verizon Wireless attorneys believe the calls were made using automatic dialing devices, Nicol said.

The lawsuits were filed Wednesday. The suit against Intelligent Alternatives was filed in state Superior Court in Sacramento, Calif., while the one against Resort Marketing Trends was filed in state Superior Court in Somerville, N.J., because Verizon Wireless customers in New Jersey and California received the largest number of calls from the telemarkers.

"There were people throughout the country who received these calls," Nicol said, and Verizon is continuing to collect data on such calls.

At Intelligent Alternatives, spokesman C. Earl Rogers said the company "has not willfully or knowingly called a cell phone number." He said the lawsuit has been referred to his company's legal counsel and declined further comment.

Officials at Resort Marketing Trends could not be reached Friday because the telemarketing company does not have a listed telephone number.

According to Nicol, Verizon Wireless previously has sued spammers for contacting its customers, but has never before sued telemarketers and believes these are the first such lawsuits in the country.

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