February 14, 2006 11:17 AM PST

Verizon Wireless sues telemarketers

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Verizon Wireless filed two lawsuits Tuesday that charge telemarketing companies with illegal solicitation of its wireless-phone customers.

The lawsuits, filed in state Superior Court in Somerville, N.J., claim that the companies named in the suit violated the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, as well as state fraud and privacy laws.

In the first suit, Verizon alleges that All Star Vacations and Marketing Group of Miami, Fla., and Travel and Tours Marketing of Orlando, Fla., made more than 500,000 calls using autodialers and prerecorded messages in Spanish to Verizon Wireless customers indicating that customers had won trips to one of several resort locations and directing them to call a toll-free number to claim their prize.

In the second lawsuit, Verizon Wireless claims that Cambridge Marketing and Financial Services of Deland, Fla., made thousands of calls to cell phone customers using autodialers and prerecorded messages. The messages left in voicemail indicated that customers had won a Ford Explorer and directed them to call a toll-free number to claim their prize.

Federal rules forbid using automated dialing machines to reach any phones, such as a cell phone, in which incoming calls cost the subscriber money. Under the rules, telemarketers are allowed to dial each number by hand, but that would be ridiculously labor-intensive.

Verizon Wireless, a venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, is seeking an injunction against these companies, along with an undisclosed award of monetary damages.

The companies named in the lawsuit could not be reached for comment.

U.S. mobile operators, including Verizon Wireless, have been clamping down on companies that they believe are infringing on mobile-phone users' privacy.

In December, Verizon Wireless won court injunctions permanently barring Intelligent Alternatives of San Diego, Calif., and Resort Marketing Trends of Coral Springs, Fla., from automatically dialing more of its customers. The company also recently won a permanent injunction to prevent a Florida company from sending unsolicited text messages to its customers' phones.

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