PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Barbara Gadbois
Phone: (302) 577-8323
Date: July 21, 2004
DELAWARE SETTLES CLAIMS AGAINST THREE WIRELESS CARRIERS
Verizon, Cingular and Sprint PCS Agree to Coverage Maps and Pro-Consumer Return Policies
(Wilmington, DE): Attorney General Jane Brady today announced today that she and Attorneys General from thirty-one additional states entered into settlements with three of the nation's largest wireless telephone carriers, Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless, and Sprint PCS, which requires these carriers to provide coverage maps to consumers, gives consumers at least two weeks to terminate service contracts without incurring any penalties, and also changes the way these carriers advertise and sell their services and coverage.
Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless, and Sprint PCS now will provide coverage maps to consumers that are as accurate as possible under current technology. Consumers may be familiar with the maps previously provided by wireless carriers, referred to as “rate maps,” which consist of a map indicating the entire calling area, in some cases, the entire United States. Coverage was not necessarily available in the entire calling area or the entire United States, for a variety of reasons, including lack of cell towers, lack of roaming agreements, lack of capacity to accommodate all calls during certain high peak times, and physical obstructions, such as buildings, hills, and trees.
Also, these 3 carriers have agreed to provide new customers with a minimum of 14 days to try out their wireless service to make sure service is available where they need and want it. During the return period, new customers will be permitted to terminate their service contracts for any reason without paying the early termination fee provided for in the contract. In addition, these 3 carriers have agreed to provide a new return policy: new customers will be permitted to terminate their service contracts for any reason within 3 days without paying the early termination fee, plus the carrier will return any activation fee the consumer may have paid when he or she signed up for the service.
Other provisions of the agreement call for certain disclosures in the carriers' advertisements and through their retail, Internet, and telemarketing sales channels, which are designed to provide consumers with comprehensive information about the costs and limits of their wireless service.
These settlements resolve state consumer protection investigations of the carriers focusing on alleged misleading advertisements and unclear disclosures relating to service agreement terms and wireless coverage areas.
Attorney General Brady said, “As technology evolves, we need to be sure to keep pace with our efforts to protect consumers' interests. Today's settlement provides protections to the growing number of consumers who use cell phones."
The states entering into the settlement with the carriers are Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In addition to the policy changes, the wireless carriers have agreed to pay a total of $5 million to the 32 states to cover the costs of the multi-state inquiry and for general consumer education. Delaware’s share of $5,000 will be deposited into the Delaware Consumer Protection Fund.