Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Greg Stumbo Granted Order Restraining Telephone Company from Defrauding Seniors
Attorney General Greg Stumbo today won a restraining order in Fayette Circuit Court preventing Buzz Telecom Corporation of Merrillville, Indiana from billing for long distance telephone services neither requested or received by Kentucky citizens. The Court has required that the company cease collections for these activities including “slamming,” which is unauthorized switching of telephone service providers.
“Buzz Telecom has been billing Kentucky’s elderly citizens for services they didn’t request or use,” said Attorney General Stumbo. “Our senior citizens have appeared to be singled out and sent bogus bills by this unscrupulous company. One victim even received a bill on behalf of her father who passed away more than 15 years ago. Today’s court action will help ensure Buzz stops preying on Kentuckians,” said Stumbo.
Last week the Attorney General also asked the Public Service Commission to revoke Buzz’s certificate to operate in the state. The Commission has yet to enter any order in that case.
The Kentucky Attorney General is spearheading a multi-state effort to eliminate fraudulent practices by Buzz Telecom. Twenty other states are also taking various actions against the company including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Wyoming. New Hampshire and Tennessee officials are currently monitoring Buzz Telecom’s conduct in their states.
Attorney General Stumbo is also asking the federal government to review the company’s conduct. In the meantime, Attorney General Stumbo urges all citizens to refuse payment for any bills from Buzz unless they actually requested service from the company.
Since November 2006, Attorney General Stumbo’s office has received nearly 30 consumer complaints against Buzz Telecom. Consumers report receiving long distance telephone bills ranging in price from about $9 to $36. Many of the complaints have been from senior citizens whose phone numbers were listed on the Kentucky Do Not Call List.
Although most consumers tell the Office of the Attorney General that they never received a telemarketing call from Buzz Telecom, at least one consumer who complained to Buzz was informed that it had an audiotape verification of the consumer ordering the service. However, the consumer denies ever agreeing to switch long distance carriers. Meanwhile, Buzz Telecom has not registered with the Office of the Attorney General to receive a copy of Kentucky’s Do Not Call list in order to avoid calling listed numbers. “Slamming” is a violation of KRS 278.535 and violations are punishable by fines of at least $2,500 per violation. Violations of the Kentucky Do Not Call law are subject to fines of $5,000 per violation.
The Attorney General issued the company a civil investigative demand (CID), along with a letter demanding Buzz discontinue soliciting consumers by telephone and sending bills for services not rendered. The company never responded.
Buzz Telecom’s roots date back to 1993 when Business Options, Inc. (BOI) was founded in Illinois and later controlled by Kurtis J. Kintzel and his bother Keanan Kintzel. The company’s stated purpose was to serve as a reseller of long distance telephone services. After numerous state proceedings where BOI was accused of misrepresenting itself, it was sanctioned by the FCC in 2004. However, BOI transferred its customer base to Buzz Telecom in June, 2005. The Kintzel brothers created Buzz in 2002 in Nevada.
Kentucky, and the other states taking action against Buzz Telecom, will continue to independently pursue Buzz, or any entity under its control, to ensure its operations are closed or properly investigated and penalized.
Consumers receiving questionable billings from Buzz Telecom, or from anyone else trying to collect on these billings, are asked to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-888-432-9257.