| State of New Jersey
Department Of The Public Advocate
240 West State St.
P.O. Box 851
Trenton, NJ 08625-0851
Phone: (609) 826-5090 Fax: (609) 984-4747
|JON S. CORZINE
For Immediate Release:
September 11, 2006
|RONALD K. CHEN
For Further Information
N.J. Department of the Public Advocate Opposes Verizon Attempt to Collect Additional Funds To Pay For Past Due Bills and Attorney Fees
Newark, N.J.—Described as “unreasonable” and a form of “double-dipping,” the Department of the Public Advocate today called on the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to suspend Verizon New Jersey’s proposed tariff aimed at collecting additional fees from residential and single-line business ratepayers.
Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen and Rate Counsel Seema M. Singh said the proposed tariff would require ratepayers to compensate the company for attorney fees associated with litigation tied to collecting on past due bills. The tariff would be charged to both residential and single-line businesses and take effect on Sept. 29, 2006. In addition, the tariff would include the assessment of an interest charge that could total over 18 percent for the past due bills on single-line business ratepayers.
“We are strongly opposed to allowing Verizon to impose these unreasonable charges,” said Chen. “This would be an unfair burden for ratepayers to have to pay out additional money for something that is already factored into their bill rates.”
Rate Counsel filed its opposition to the tariff with the BPU on Sept. 8, and asked the BPU to set a date for a hearing on the matter. If the tariff is allowed to take effect, New Jersey single-line business consumers could be charged 1.5 percent on any balance carried forward to the next month’s bill. All customers would also be liable for all costs associated with collecting past due charges, including all attorney fees.
Verizon customers pay for all of the communication company’s collection services, including attorney fees as part of their current rates.
“Ratepayers should not be nickled and dimed for these fees that are already included into their rates," said Singh. “This tariff amounts to double-dipping and we are calling on the Board of Public Utilities to fully investigate justification of these charges.”
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