Washington -- Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks filed a complaint Monday against Verizon Communications at the Federal Communications Commission, accusing the telecom giant of improperly taking steps to retain customers that have committed to try cable's VoIP service.
The crux of the complaint by three cable companies is an allegation that Verizon engaged in “retention marketing” at a time when FCC rules prohibit it by incumbent phone carriers.
The complaint states that in violation of FCC rules, Verizon used its knowledge of switching customers -- through requests to have their phone numbers moved or “ported” to the new provider -- to ply them with “price incentives and gift cards” to stay with Verizon.
“While some customers rebuffed Verizon's inducements to stay while the port requests were pending, thousands of customers accepted Verizon's offers, after which Verizon cancelled their orders for [cable VoIP],” the MSOs' complaint states.
The cable companies stated that FCC rules permit Verizon to win back customers after they have changed providers. But the rules do not allow retention marketing while the customer is in the process of changing, which in many cases is the period when consumers are waiting for Verizon to transfer an existing phone number to a competing provider.
The cable companies also stated that Verizon broke the rules because its knowledge of a customer's intention to switch came from the cable company's number portability request, not from information directly derived from the consumer.
“None of the cancellations at issue in this complaint concerns winback marketing that occurs after the port has been completed, or instances in which Verizon's retail personnel learned of a customer's planned departure directly from the customer,” the MSOs said.
Verizon offered its own retort. “This filing should be seen for what it is -- another cable company effort to block consumer choice as competition heats up,” said Verizon spokesman David Fish. “Verizon’s retention marketing is lawful, does not interfere with number porting and, most important, it allows consumers to choose a better alternative. It’s hard to believe that cable would attempt to block consumers from receiving information about additional services and lower prices.”