Verizon Communications Inc.'s Bell Atlantic unit and other Baby Bell local telephone companies may be subject to federal antitrust suits by consumers complaining of inferior service, a U.S. appeals court ruled.
The decision by the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals opens the Baby Bells to lawsuits by retail customers who may collect triple damages if they succeed. Until now, only competitors were allowed to bring antitrust claims over poor service against companies such as Verizon, the biggest U.S. local phone provider.
The ruling conflicts with another federal appeals court decision, setting the stage for a review by the Supreme Court.
Shares of New York-based Verizon rose 31 cents to $40.25 on the New York Stock Exchange.