Tricky telemarketer ordered out of NC, says AG Cooper
Release date: 11/14/2006
Buzz Telecom preyed on seniors, must now pay refunds and leave the state
Raleigh: Buzz Telecom has been ordered to stop doing business in North Carolina and must pay refunds to consumers, Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today.
“This telemarketer tricked North Carolina seniors into paying too much for long distance phone service,” said Cooper. “Now we’ve put a stop to their unwanted calls and collection notices, and consumers will get their money back.”
Under an agreement signed Monday by Wake County Superior Court Judge John R. Jolly, Jr. Buzz Telecom of Merrillville, Indiana is permanently barred from soliciting customers in the state and must notify all of their current North Carolina customers within 30 days that the company is quitting the state.
Buzz must pay refunds to all consumers who have filed complaints about the company with Cooper’s office, the NC Utilities Commission, or the Federal Trade Commission. To file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, North Carolina consumers can call 1-877-5-NO SCAM toll-free or visit www.ncdoj.gov. North Carolina consumers who responded to collection notices from Buzz will also receive refunds.
Buzz has approximately 3,000 customers in North Carolina. Current Buzz customers will receive a letter from the company with details on how to switch to another long distance carrier.
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.
More than 60 consumers have complained about Buzz since 2004, mostly seniors, their children or caregivers. Cooper’s office first learned about Buzz’ telemarketing tactics when a Tennessee woman called to complain that her elderly parents in Robbinsville, NC had seen their phone bill double to $58 a month. The couple recalled receiving a call from Buzz but had not wanted to switch their long distance service.
According to the complaint, Buzz began pitching its long-distance telephone service to North Carolinians sometime in 2003 through telemarketing calls. Buzz often claimed to be with the consumer’s local phone company and regularly failed to tell consumers that they were switching them to a new phone service. The company especially targeted senior citizens, promising a senior discount to consumers who answered yes to a series of questions. Instead, consumers wound up with phone bills that were double or triple what they paid previously. Many of the seniors targeted by Buzz lived on fixed incomes and made few long distance calls.
Relatives and caregivers of seniors are also encouraged to be on the look out and to report similar scams to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
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.