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Cooper wins order to stop telemarketer from taking seniors' money

Release date: 11/1/2006

Buzz Telecom must quit trying to collect money from NC consumers for unwanted services

Raleigh: A telemarketer that tricked seniors into paying too much for long distance phone service has been ordered to stop trying to collect money from North Carolina consumers, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.

“This telemarketer claimed it would quit preying on our seniors but kept right on charging them for longdistance services they weren’t even using,” said Cooper. “Consumers let us know about it, and now we’ve put a stop to these inflated bills.”

Wake County Superior Court Judge J.B. Allen, Jr. today agreed with Cooper’s request to order Buzz Telecom of Merrillville, Indiana to stop soliciting or collecting money from North Carolina consumers.

In August, Cooper filed suit in Wake County Superior Court against Buzz alleging that it used unfair and deceptive practices and violated the state’s telemarketing laws. Buzz claimed that it would stop trying to collect from North Carolina consumers while the case moved forward.

But Cooper’s office continued to get complaints from seniors about Buzz, especially from consumers who live in and around Concord, Albemarle, Kannapolis, Ellerbe and Clinton, NC. More than 25 seniors complained to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division in the past two weeks that Buzz was trying to collect money from them for long-distance service they weren’t receiving.

Cooper is seeking to permanently ban Buzz and its employees from telemarketing in North Carolina and to cancel the company’s contracts with North Carolina customers. He is also asking the court for refunds for consumers and civil penalties of $5,000 per violation.

According to the complaint, Buzz began pitching its long-distance telephone service to North Carolinians sometime in 2003 through telemarketing calls. Buzz telemarketers regularly failed to tell consumers that they were calling to switch them to a new phone service and often claimed to be with the consumer’s local phone company. The company particularly targeted senior citizens, promising a senior discount to consumers who answered yes to a series of questions designed to verify the consumer’s enrollment in the new long distance service. Instead, consumers wound up with phone bills that were double or triple what they had previously paid. Many of the seniors targeted by Buzz lived on fixed incomes and made few long distance calls.

More than 60 consumers have complained about Buzz since 2004, mostly seniors, their children or caregivers.

Consumers who believe they may have been a victim of Buzz or another telemarketing scheme should report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM. Relatives and caregivers of seniors are also encouraged to be on the look out for similar scams.

Cooper reminded consumers to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry to cut down on all unwanted telemarketing calls. To add your home and mobile numbers to the list, go to www.DoNotCall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 within North Carolina from the number you wish to register.