I stumbled upon your Telecom Digest while doing a search on Google; I
hope you might be able to provide help. You have my permission to
post this in your Digest.
Please call me with questions! My contact info is at the end of this
When did it become legal for telephone companies to solicit listings
which are deceptive? A company in New Jersey that has a "local
listing" in a Concord NH telephone book calling themselves "Concord
Florist"? A locksmith or a towing company that lists in one phone
book, but is actually nowhere near that location?
Bell Atlantic/Verizon is knowingly and intentionally facilitating and
disseminating deceptive business telephone listings. This creates
unfair trade practices for legitimate businesses. This practice is in
violation of state and federal consumer protection laws, and also
violates state and federal regulatory tariffs.
The ruse employs 'remote call forwarding' which Verizon pro motes by
saying 'Remote Call Forwarding' allows you to establish a "local"
presence in almost any location, just by having a local phone number,
even if you don't have a physical office in that area.
The following contains Verizon's Directory Listing Standards (policies
and procedures) applicable to white page business directory listings.
Listings for Remote Call Forwarded (RCF) telephone service may include
whatever address the business customer wants to list, whether it is
local or not.
If the customer selects the OMIT ADDRESS option, encourage the
appearance of at least the local community in the listing.
Call Joe's Towing Company at a local phone number in your local phone
book but he's really 75 miles away. Call a plumber, locksmith,
florist; they all have a local appearance but are actually many miles
Verizon allows customers who buy this service to assume hundreds of
fictitious geographically local business names. One business in New
Jersey who uses this service has local appearing listings in nearly
every major city in the country, and lists a fictitious name: 'Concord
Florist' 'Manchester Florist', 'Rochester Florist'. All calls are
routed back to one central number, unbeknownst to the consumer.
By selling this service of RCF, allowing it to be used in an unlawful
manner, and publishing the listings in Verizon Directories, the following
situations have occurred:
Consumers are being deceived as to the origination of the goods or
services associated with the businesses using RCF.
Legitimate, local businesses stand to lose business due to this unfair
trade practice caused by RCF.
Verizon is unjustly profiting from the service charges and extra listing
fees associated with RCF.
Verizon is facilitating and disseminating the deception by selling
their RCF listings to other publishing services. State and Federal
laws prohibit misleading consumers as to the origin or source of goods
or services. The FTC determines "deception" by looking at the intent
of the information being presented.
What is the intent behind "Remote Call Forwarding"?? To make people
think they are calling a location that is really located somewhere
else! If it was just to save the consumer a toll call, why not use
an 800 number? In an a separate email, I have attached a couple
documents with our Verizon Tariffs, and State laws.
Valerie Dawes, President
New Hampshire State Florists' Association
24 Albin Ave.
Allenstown, NH 03275
603-738-5691 (cell; leave message)
603-485-9833 (home - evening calls welcomed!)
[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I'll bet when the order taker answers
the phone for 'Concord Florist' or 'Manchester Florist' they answer
the phone with the more generic phrase 'Florist'; the same way that
secretaries for a group of lawyers or doctors tend to be generic in
their answers many times. After all, unless the answering party is
tipped off by caller ID or the ringing cadence on a line (or in fact
a separate line for each incoming 'business' they have no way of
knowing _which_ florist (doctor, lawyer, other person) is being
I do not think it is against the law to use remote call forwarding
(with an entry in the phone book for same); whether a given 'assumed
name' for your business is deceptive or not depends on how you use it
and in many communities one has to file legal papers to be allowed to
use certain names; anyone can examine these papers and object to the
inappropriate use of a name on the grounds it may be misleading.
The choice of a name for a business is a decision one makes (assuming
one intends to follow the law) based on laws pertaining to 'assumed
names'. Does the term 'Manchester' or 'Concord' (for example) _absolutely_
refer to the towns by those names in New Hampshire, or are those
generic phrases anyone can use to call their business (assuming the
owner has the appropriate business licenses, etc?)
What if a person has two places of business, both essentially the
same, and they use _regular_ call forwarding (star seven two and all
that) to forward one of their phones to the other location? Is that
deceptive? Suppose the same person has a 'foreign exchange' line from
one community which terminates in another town? Is that -- in and of
itself -- deceptive? Or to use your example 'why not have an 800 number?'
suppose my business has an 800 number, ostensibly to save on toll
charges for my customers, but in fact most or all of my customers are
local people and would not incur any long distance charges by calling
me anyway? For _honest_ business people, there are several modes of
handling telephone calls which might incur toll charges: 800 numbers
is one such way, FX (foreign exchange) lines are another way; Call
Forwarding (reglar or remote) is a third way. 800 numbers are not
necessarily the least expensive, depending on your volume of calls and
your specific usage patterns.
On the other hand, deceptive business people may wish to use these
various modes on the phone for less than honorable reasons. There are
business places which place much importance on being listed in a
certain place in the telephone book; apparently they feel their
customers are idiots and cannot search alphabetically for them, so
they feel it is important to be in first place in the phone book under
the business name "A" or "AAA" or possibly, like one firm in Chicago,
in last place as "ZZYXZY", often times with no addressses given. Most
of the time, to get a listing as "A' or "ZZYXZY" telco will insist on
seeing legal papers which give you the right to use those names in
your business. But telco is not usually in a position to divine your
motives for choosing one mode or another in the way you receive calls
from your customers. If you subscribe to telephone service and insist
'so many of my customers live in Concord and I want a convenient way
for them to reach me by dialing just seven digits instead of having
to dial eleven digits', telco is rarely going to question that motive.
I guess telco's assumption is if your business practices are deceptive
there are other government agencies which will catch up with you
sooner or later. And because telco is a common carrier they really
cannot get too inquisitive, if you get my point.
And how do you know -- if you know -- that a call to 'Concord Florist'
(to use but an example) which gets picked up by an order taker '75
miles away' does not get wire-transferred to a a truly local florist
for handling? Or that 'Concord Florist' is nothing more than an agency
for one or more local florists truly in the community, sending wire
transfers around all the time on some sort of commission arrangement?
And since we are talking about it, what is _your personal opinion_ of
the service 1-800-FLOWERS (otherwise known as http://flowers.com )
They work with florists all over the country; either you have a legit-
imate business or you do not.
If you can demonstrate where actual fraud or deception has occurred
as a result of this, it would be interesting to hear actual examples. But
as stated above, I do not feel that merely a desire 'to have a presence
in a community' is in itself a sign of fraud. For instance, I personally
would love to have 'branch offices' of TELECOM Digest in all sorts of
places. As it turns out, although I have phone numbers in Chicago, in
London, England, and Winfield, KS, my _only actual office_ is in
Independence, KS; all the other locations named above funnel in to me
using RCF through Vonage. PAT]