| 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 28, 2006
|RONALD K. CHEN
For Further Information
N.J. Public Advocate and Rate Counsel Urge BPU To Protect Consumers By Restoring Rate Regulation and Maintaining Free Directory Assistance Calls
Newark, N.J.— The Department of the Public Advocate today urged the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to declare Verizon New Jersey Inc.’s Directory Assistance Service (DA) a non-competitive rate regulated service—a move that would allow the board to keep controls on consumer charges. The Public Advocate is also asking that there be no decrease in consumers’ four free monthly directory assistance calls.
Public Advocate Ronald K. Chen and Rate Counsel Seema M. Singh called on the BPU to reject a proposal from Verizon New Jersey Inc. that would allow its residential directory assistance service to be classified as a competitive service. The issue is to be heard before a BPU commissioner at evidentiary hearings that begin Sept. 28, 2006.
“There are no comparable or competitive services to Verizon’s directory assistance that would be a fair option for consumers, and because of this there is no justification for reclassifying the service,” said Chen.
Singh said if the service is deemed competitive, rates could go up for consumers. An expert retained by the Rate Counsel advised that rates could nearly triple to $1.49 per directory assistance call if the service is reclassified.
Singh said the Board of Public Utilities should reject any rate increases in the service and, at minimum, maintain the current free call allotment and declare Directory Assistance non-competitive. Singh noted that Rate Counsel’s experts did not find any evidence of existing competition for Verizon’s directory assistance service.
”We are calling on the Board of Public Utilities to protect the ratepayers from being overcharged by Verizon,” said Singh. “We have found no evidence to support Verizon’s claim of competition to justify its request that the service be unregulated.”
On Sept. 22, 2006, Rate Counsel filed additional testimony supporting its opposition to residential Directory Assistance being classified as a competitive service. Rate Counsel is taking its action in response to Verizon’s efforts to have the BPU declare its Directory Assistance service as a competitive service. Verizon’s request is being reviewed while the BPU decides on a 2002 stipulation regarding the service. Under the 2002 stipulation negotiated by Rate Counsel and the BPU, Verizon committed to providing four free DA service calls per month and additional directory assistance calls at 50 cents per call.
Pending a BPU decision on the matter, the current rate and free call level will 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