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Fla. Rule Change May Help Verizon’s Retention

4/20/2006 4:11 AM Eastern

Verizon Communications Inc. will be better able to "save" local phone customers trying to disconnect to go to another Florida provider due to a change in tariff rules approved April 18 by state utility regulators.

The Florida Public Service Commission approved a request by Verizon that will alter retention efforts by the telco. Now, when a customer calls to cancel landline service, Verizon can offer incentives to stay. The offers can include gift cards, bill credits or other discounts, but they must not equal more than $55 per year.

Verizon must report on the pricing program twice per year to regulators in order to ensure that the telephone company is not offering services below cost in competitive areas, state spokesman Bob Elek said. "We wouldn't do that anyway," he added.

Prior to the rules change, Verizon had to give 15 days’ notice, in the form of a tariff filing, to state regulators. That gave the information to competitors, as well. "It was like flying a banner around the city," Elek said.

Verizon has been steadily losing landline customers to competitors such as cable. In the first quarter of 2003, the company had 1.67 million residential landlines in its six-county service territory in Florida. By the fourth quarter of 2005, that number had diminished to 1.4 million, according to the company.

 

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April