Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Greg Stumbo Takes Action To Stop Long Distance Company From Preying on Kentucky Seniors
Attorney General Greg Stumbo today issued a Cease and Desist letter to Buzz Telecom Corporation of Merrillville, Indiana, based upon a recent rise in complaints from elderly consumers alleging that Buzz sent them false billing statements for it’s long distance service that the consumers neither requested nor utilized. The Attorney General’s letter informs Buzz that false billing statements are a violation of the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act and that the unauthorized phone service switching or “slamming” is a violation of KRS 278.535. Violations are punishable by fines of at least $2,000 per violation. Violations of the Kentucky No Call law are subject to fines of $5,000 per violation.
“In the last week, there has been a surge in complaints from Kentucky seniors who have received bogus billings from this company for services that they never requested,” Stumbo said. “There are indications of not only false billings but violations of the state’s No Call law and Slamming law. We’ve put the company on notice to cease any unlawful activity and we’ve issued a civil subpoena to further investigate their activities in Kentucky. They’ve been in trouble in other states which have had hundreds of complaints and we’re taking action now to make sure we don’t have the same degree of problems in Kentucky. If they’ve violated the law, they will be held accountable. I urge any consumers, particularly seniors, not to pay any bills from Buzz Telecom unless they requested its services.” Kentucky’s “anti-slamming” law prohibits one carrier from switching a consumer’s long distance service from another telephone carrier without verifiable authorization.
The bills which consumers are receiving are from Buzz Telecom of Merrillville, Indiana and impose charges for long distance telephone services ranging from about $9 to approximately $36. Most of the complaints have been from senior citizens whose phone numbers were listed on the Kentucky Do Not Call list. Although 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 has an audiotape verification of the consumer ordering the service. However, the consumer denies ever agreeing to switch long distance carriers. Meanwhile, Buzz has not registered with the Office of the Attorney General to receive a copy of Kentucky’s No Call list in order to avoid calling listed numbers.
“There have been 17 Kentucky complaints, most filed within the last week as consumers received their November billing statement,” Stumbo added. “We have complaints from people in Lexington, Somerset, Flemingsburg, Ashland, Murray, Liberty and Brooksville. It appears Buzz has sent these false billings to consumers across the state,” Stumbo said.
Buzz has been the subject of investigation in several states including, Ohio and North Carolina. Since 2004, Buzz has also been the subject of proceedings before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Public Utility Commissions in Maine and Montana. The North Carolina Attorney General sued the company in August and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order November 2nd requiring Buzz to cease operations in North Carolina. The Kentucky Public Service Commission is assisting the Attorney General by providing ongoing and current information on complaints filed with the PSC.
Consumers receiving questionable billings from Buzz Telecom are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at (888)432-9257.