HOWTO: Find A Consumer Lawyer

To save money, Justin got his dad to switch from Verizon to Vonage and port his business number over. Three weeks later, after running back and forth between the two companies, calling the number results in a “sorry, your call did not go through” message. Needless to say, this had quite an adverse effect on Pops’ business.

Angered, Justin wants to sue Verizon for damages, as they broke FCC regs in not porting the number in a timely fashion. However, he doesn’t know where to find one.

We direct Justin to FindLegalHelp.org. By selecting your state and scrolling down to your county, you can find the number for your local bar association. They should be able to put you in touch with a lawyer experienced in similar issues.

Also, if anyone knows of a lawyer competent in this area, they can leave the info in the comments or contact Justin directly at helpmewithlnp@gmail.com.

Justin’s source complaint, inside.


    “I was looking at my dad’s phone bills and noticed he was paying close to $30/mth for Verizon local service and Sprint long distance service. $30 for somthing he rarely uses. So we went out and bought a Vonage box at OfficeMax. Brought it home, I activated it on 8/7/06.

    We were given a temporary number to test the sound quality and everything worked fine. So I called up 3PV, the company that initiates the number transfer. They asked me a battery of questions, including Verizon account number Social Security etc. They also asked me if i had DSL service associated with the number i was porting. I told the agent that we had Verizon FiOS, and not DSL. So put down a no in the transfer request.

    I was told the transfer would take 7-20 days to complete

    14 days later I get an email from Vonage saying your number will be ported at the end of the day. Then the next day I get another email saying the port has been completed. So I plug in my Vonage box, hook up the phone and everything is working

    About a week later I plug in the phone back into the landline and i get a dialtone. I call up Vonage, they told me to call Verizon and tell them to disconnect the service even though they explicitly told me not to when i spoke to 3PV.

    What follows is two and a half weeks of back and forth bullshit between Verizon and Vonage trying to get my landline cut off and my account removed from the Verizon system.

    Then, finally my landline is disconnected. About three days later, my dad tells me that people cant call him for some reason. I picked up one of our verizon landline phones, tried to call the ported number and got a “sorry, your call did not go thru” message.

    So I call up verizon and after on hold for an hour i am told that… *drumroll*… the number transfer is still pending!

    So here I am, about three weeks without a working phone and a ton of my dad’s buisness lost. Verizon put a ticket in and said it would be taken care of in 24 hours 3 more weeks after the fact, that ticket still has not been worked on. It seems that the order slipped through the cracks, and nobody at Verizon has the power to fix the problem.

    So I go a step higher, Verizon Customer Relations in Pennsylvania. One would think that customer relations would be able to fix a problem like this. Not the case.

    My contact at Customer Relations worked on the case for another two weeks, got nowhere. I reported it to the Utility Commission, and all they did was send it to a higher level CSR at Customer Relations.

    Verizon is breaking FCC regulations by not porting a number in a timely fashon.

    I wanted to formally sue Verizon for damages, but I cant seem to find a lawyer that handles those sort of things.”

Comments

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  1. First, it’d help to know what state Justin & dad are in (Pennsylvania for both?).

    Sadly, there are a lot more lawyers experienced on the other side of the telecom divide (i.e., who help telecom companies deal with compliance with FCC, not with consumers suing when the telecom co. doesn’t comply).

    However, I suggest contacting lobbies or legal action groups loosely related to your issue, such as the Electronic Freedom Foundation or a state consumer advocacy group. Many such groups maintain databases of lawyers who take those sorts of cases. You may not be able to find a lawyer who’s taken specifically this kind of case before, but someone who’s familiar with modern telecom issues or traditional consumer protection laws should be able to help.

    Looking around at nearby law schools may produce some with telecommunications law classes offered. They will have at least one professor who knows about telecom law and may be able to put you in touch with someone; they may also have contacts with other lawyers, or some graduates who went through the class may be interested in taking the case (I probably would — were I in your jurisdiction).

    Finally, I suggest calling your county bar association. Most have a referral program, most with specialty listings, and generally nobody knows the local lawyers better than the county bar secretary. (Well, I suppose not in big-big cities, but in smaller cities, the bar association secretary knows all the lawyers in the county, what they practice, where their kids play soccer, and whether they suck in court.)

    It also may be worth your while to network locally and see if you can find anyone else this happened to from the same provider. (Try Craig’s List?) If all the lawyers you talk to think the case won’t pay for itself, remember the two magic words: Class Action.

  2. thatabbygirl says:

    I agree with calling the local bar association. Most have a service called Lawyer Referral Service, which divides up area attorneys by practice area for specific and targeted referrals. There is sometimes a nominal fee for the referral service, but (imo) it’s the best way to get a reliable attorney in the relevant practice area. Usually if the referrals can’t assist you directly, they are at least more familiar with who else is practicing in that area (both geographic and topic) and can give you additional referrals.

    Obviously, this way of finding a lawyer can work whether you’re seeking a consumer or other kind of lawyer.

  3. thatabbygirl says:

    Oh, also meant to say it’s always worth calling the Consumer department of your local legal aid (if there is one) to ask for referral help. They probably can’t help directly due to income limits, but they’ll know what other organizations/firms deal with those issues.

  4. barrister says:

    As an attorney (who doesn’t handle FCC consumer actions or anything of the sort, but has a general appreciation of litigation and lawsuits) I would provide a brief word of caution. This is not a lawsuit likely to produce vast amounts of monetary damages, and the legal fees are almost certain to outweigh the recovery. I would doubt you will find an attorney willing to take on the case for a contingency, and the hourly bills will soon start to clock up going against a behemoth like Verizon. Any victory is likely to be pyrrhic. As a general rule, lawsuits filed in anger prove dissatisfying.

  5. timmus says:

    I’m curious why one would need to retain an attorney for a small problem. Can’t you just travel to the small claims court where the corporation is and file a suit? Obviously this would involve some expense, but not nearly as much as trying to recruit legal help. I know I’d have no qualms with doing so if I felt that I was at a rope’s end. If enough people did this, it would tie up the corporation until they either had to pay for more attorneys or bleed money on judgements. So far I’ve been less than impressed with the effectiveness of class-action suits.

  6. “Can’t you just travel to the small claims court where the corporation is and file a suit?”

    Plaintiff can always file locally. Travelling to the corporation’s small claims court is an unnecessary cost.

    I’ve taken some small claims cases for clients where it’s CLEARLY more cost-effective for the corporations to settle, and they’ve spend 10 times more than it would have cost to settle on lawyers and litigation, using some of the dirtiest tricks in the book. There’s only so much I can do to keep costs down for my clients when opposing counsel is filing motions every two days that require a response. It’s much easier for them to force you out of money than for you to force them out of it. A lot depends on whether the corporation’s policy is to battle each and every lawsuit to the bitter, bitter end, or to settle the minor ones to keep costs down.

    Also, the vast majority of clients who sue on their own behalf don’t even make it to trial before getting tossed out of court. Corporations have all the time and lawyers in the world to play games with timing and court procedure. The Average Citizen who can file his own 1040 can file a court case, but dealing with lawyer games is a royal pain in the ass. Unless they’re jailhouse lawyers, most people don’t have the time for it.

  7. bitplayer says:

    Clark Howard would recommend calling the Public utility Commission in your state and filing a complaint. H

  8. FLConsumer says:

    I hate to say it, but Vonage isn’t considered a phone company. Strange, but true. Because of this, I’ve seen many odd porting issues. On the other hand, I’ve seen a few of the smaller mom & pop VoIP providers pull off porting tricks which the Bells said couldn’t be done. Verizon wouldn’t let me port my number from my old address to my new one, despite both being in the same zip code, off the same major road, and within 10 minutes of each other… BUT my VoIp provider up in NY had no trouble porting the number into their system… doesn’t make sense.

    In this case, I do believe you’d have a case, mainly because it was Verizon who didn’t follow the rules and not Vonage (‘though Verizon’s lawyers will claim Vonage didn’t play by the rules), but you’ll definitely want a lawyer for it. I wonder if one of those ambulance-chaser personal injury lawyers would be willing to take something like this on… In theory, you could win a very large settlement in a jury trial.

  9. “I wonder if one of those ambulance-chaser personal injury lawyers would be willing to take something like this on”

    It’s likely. Justin might try the second-biggest plaintiff’s firm (the nicer name for personal injury ambulance chasers) in town; the largest often gets to pick and choose from among super-giant medical malpractice cases. In my experience, most plaintiff’s attorneys are pretty bright and motivated — since they work on the legal version of commission, they get paid to win, not to run up bills. Despite their reputation as ambulance-chasers, many are interested in this sort of case, particularly if there’s a chance for plaintiff’s attorney’s fees to be awarded, which is the case in many consumer protection statutes (specifically to make it easier for consumers to retain a lawyer to bring a case — the corporation will have to pay for YOUR lawyer if they lose).

    I just handed a similar consumer rights case off to a local plaintiff’s firm that’s best known for car accident lawsuits, and they’re doing a fantastic job with it. They were also really excited to take something a little different than their usual run of accident-and-injury cases.

  10. Sam Glover says:

    Try this link for all your consumer lawyer needs: http://www.naca.net/ (I’m on there, as well, although this is not my area of specialty.)

  11. CIT34 says:

    Verizon made me a victim from 4/5/2007 to present. Verizon disconnected my DSL services with them and did not give me any notice. I called Verizon on 4/5,/4/7,4/10,4/12,4/16,4/20,4/27,5/7, and 5/8 2007 to see when where they going to reconnect my services. They kept saying each time I called that they do not own the phone number that I provided. I told them each time that I called that yes, Verizon once did own the phone number to my home phone service. Then I swicthed to Vonage VoIP on 10/2006. Reminding them that I also had DSL before I cancled my Verison phone service back in 10/2007. It is now 4/5/2007 and Verizon has decided stop and cancel my DSL services without any notfication to myself,the customer. I then told them that it is unethical business and I should not have to go through the abuse because I have Vonage VoIP services. Verizon is my ISP provider and Vonage is my VoIP provider. So, for 30 days Verizon has kept me in a loop without any real help to get my services back online. Verizon employees keep telling me that I need a dryloop, but are not making much attemps to provide me with the services. Then finally they gave me an order number , account number and a ID User name. I still have no Verizon DSL service as of today 5/8/2007. I do have Vonage VoIP but it doesnot do much good without an ISP. This process has become overly unreal with customer dissatisfication and abuse. All because one company has a disbute over what they own or provide, it should not effect their customers. Especially when it really did not have to happen in this fashion.