Court cuts off Verizon nuisance calls

As part of its ongoing battle against SMS spam and unsolicited sales calls, Verizon Wireless has won permanent injunctions to stop two telemarketing firms from making illegal marketing calls to cell phone users.

The operator said the lawsuits, which were based on evidence from customers and its own employees who received the unwanted calls, were the first of their kind initiated by a U.S. wireless carrier.

Both firms, Intelligent Alternatives of San Diego, CA, and Resort Marketing Trends of Coral Springs, Fla., have been permanently barred from making calls to Verizon Wireless customers by using auto-dialers and recorded messages. Federal consumer protection law prohibits use of auto-dialers or pre-recorded messages in calls to mobile phones.

Intelligent Alternatives will also pay $20,000 in damages. Verizon said it will donate the entire amount to the Family Justice Center Foundation in San Diego on behalf of its HopeLine program.

Steven Zipperstein, general counsel and vice president of legal and external affairs at Verizon Wireless, said, "We will vigorously defend the strong wall of customer privacy we've built over the years through our aggressive pro-consumer policies and actions."

The injunctions were entered as the result of court-approved settlements among Verizon Wireless and the telemarketing firms.

An agreement was reached with Resort Marketing Trends on Sept. 26 and entered in Somerset County, N.J., State Superior Court by Judge Robert B. Reed. A separate agreement was reached with Intelligent Alternatives on Oct. 27, and the injunction was entered in State Superior Court on Nov. 29 in Sacramento, CA, by Judge Shelleyanne W. L. Chang. The suits were brought in states where many of the calls were made.

Verizon Wireless filed its lawsuits on Aug. 31 after the telemarketing firms apparently made hundreds of thousands of the illegal calls this past summer.

This summer, Verizon Wireless secured a court order to halt a Tennessee-based company's illegal practice of obtaining and selling confidential customer telephone records. Last month, it also obtained an immediate injunction against a Florida-based private investigative agency and its affiliates to stop their attempts to fraudulently gather confidential customer information. The company also filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction against another Florida company to stop it from sending tens of thousands of unsolicited wireless spam text messages.

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