Verizon Settles With Pennsylvania On Customer Service

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission says a proposed settlement with Verizon's Pennsylvania division, ending an informal investigation into the company's customer service practices, is open to public comment.

Under the proposed settlement, which was filed Dec. 3, 2008 and announced Feb. 26, Verizon is agreeing to additional reporting requirements, to take steps to improve customer service and to set aside $500,000 for targeted infrastructure improvements.

The proposed settlement is open to public comment for 20 days. The opinion is available at The matter is docket No. M-2008-2077881.

"We think it was a good settlement and look forward to approval by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission," Verizon spokeswoman Sharon Shaffer said in a statement. 

In June 2007, the Pennsylvania PUC initiated an investigation into Verizon's compliance with commission rules concerning quality of telephone service standards. The commission's staff found that over two years the telco failed to have 85% of calls to its business offices or call centers answered within 20 seconds.

In addition, the PUC's Bureau of Consumer Services logged 726 informally verified infractions of state regulations and policies by Verizon in 2006. In 2007, that number rose to 1,002, the commission said.

Under the proposed settlement, Verizon Pennsylvania will:

* Reduce the number of informally verified infractions by 50%, to no more than 432 on an annual basis;

* Report to the PUC the percentage of calls answered within 30 seconds, the average "busy-out rate" and the call-abandonment rate. The busy-out rate represents those attempted calls that received a busy signal or a message that they were not "received" by the company because the company lines were at capacity; 

* Place $500,000 into a separate account to be used for targeted infrastructure projects in 2009. According to the PUC, eligible projects include those that will likely reduce the number of out-of-service trouble reports in areas not otherwise scheduled for infrastructure upgrades.

Separately on Thursday, Verizon announced that it granted approximately 200 nonprofit groups in Pennsylvania more than $2.3 million in 2008.