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Verizon Refund Deadline Is Oct. 16

October 03, 2003|James S. Granelli | Times Staff Writer

Time is running out for about 230,000 Californians to claim cash refunds from a $20-million settlement with Verizon Communications Inc., which was accused of overcharging customers on long-distance bills.

Verizon local customers who switched long-distance carriers between 1997 and April have until Oct. 16 to file demands with the company for cash back, said plaintiffs' attorney Peter J. Bezek of Santa Barbara. Anyone filing after that or waiting for the company to find them will get their refund in the form of calling cards, Bezek said.

Customers who were overcharged had combined billing from Verizon, which made it easier to miss the name of their long-distance providers on monthly statements, he said. The improper charges were related to a Verizon software problem that failed to note when customers changed their long- distance provider.

Verizon spokesman Jonathan Davies said the software, in missing the change in service, defaulted the customers to one of AT&T Corp.'s higher-priced, flat-rate plans.

Bezek said the average refund was $60 a person but would vary depending on the case. One plaintiff, Linda Roark of Laguna Beach, paid $900 more than she should have over the years, Bezek said.

Verizon agreed to the settlement in April, and a Santa Barbara Superior Court judge approved it last month. About $6 million will be set aside for attorney fees and court costs.

"We're pleased the court has finally approved the settlement and we can put the case behind us," Davies said.

But Bezek said he expected to file four more class-action cases in four other states where Verizon has set up payment centers. "What's so aggravating is that this is going on throughout the country with all of these phone companies," he said.


Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.

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