STATE OF NEW JERSEY
Division of The Ratepayer Advocate
31 Clinton Street, 11th Fl.
P. O. Box 46005
Newark, New Jersey 07101
July 19, 2006
Further Information Contact
N.J. Public Advocate and Rate Counsel Call For Verizon N.J. To Maintain 4 Free Monthly Directory Assistance Service Calls
Newark, N.J.—New Jersey Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen and Rate Counsel Seema M. Singh today urged the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to declare Verizon New Jersey Inc.’s Directory Assistance Service (DA) a non-competitive service.
The action is in response to Verizon’s attempts to have the BPU declare its DA service as a competitive service as part of the BPU’s review of a 2002 stipulation in which Verizon had previously committed to providing four free DA service calls per month, and additional DA calls at 50 cents per call.
If the BPU declares DA
a competitive service, it will end rate controls on DA service and eliminate
Verizon’s commitment to provide New Jersey customers four free DA calls per
“New Jersey families and businesses do not have a comparable substitute for Verizon’s Directory Assistance Service,” said Chen. “Cellular directory assistance services, for example, are far more expensive and available only to a certain portion of the population. Internet-based services are also not comparable. For these reasons, Verizon must continue the commitment it made in 2002 to provide affordable Directory Assistance Service, including four free calls per month. To fail to do so would be fundamentally unfair to consumers.”
A public hearing was held by the BPU on July 18, 2006, in Newark on the issue, and the Division of Rate Counsel provided testimony in May on Verizon’s request to declare DA a competitive service. This issue is under review by the BPU to assess the competitive status of Verizon’s DA service.
Singh noted that Rate Counsel was a strong advocate in the initial settlement and that she will continue to participate in the current review. Evidentiary hearings are currently scheduled before BPU Commissioner Butler on July 25 and 26.
“Rate Counsel respectfully submits that Verizon’s wireline Directory Assistance Service is not susceptible to reclassification as a competitive service and that the Board of Public Utilities should, at minimum, maintain the current free call allotment and declare Directory Assistance non-competitive,” Singh said.
Singh stated further that the information that Verizon presented in support of its position is simply insufficient to sustain a finding that Directory Assistance is competitive.
Currently, Verizon’s basic exchange customers in New Jersey are entitled to four free directory assistance calls per month. All Directory Assistance calls beyond that are charged at $0.50 per call. Pending the BPU decision on the matter, the current rate and free call level remain in place.
The Division of Rate
Counsel is a division within the Department of the Public Advocate and represents
the interests of consumers of electric, natural gas, water/sewer and telecommunications
and cable TV service. Additional information on this and other utility matters
can be found at the Division’s website at http://www.rpa.state.nj.us.
The Department of the Public Advocate website is http://www.state.nj.us/publicadvocate
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