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Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D.C. 20554
In the Matter of
Verizon Delaware LLC, Verizon Long Distance LLC, and Verizon Online LLC,
File No. EB-13-MD-002
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Adopted: April 11, 2014 Released: April 14, 2014
* By the Commission:
This Memorandum Opinion and Order denies a formal complaint that Nina Shahin (Ms. Shahin) filed against Verizon Delaware LLC, Verizon Long Distance LLC, and Verizon Online LLC (collectively, Verizon) under Section 208 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the Act). The Complaint alleges that Verizon violated Sections 201(b) and 202(a) of the Act due to (1) "erratic and confusing billing including excessive charges" that ultimately resulted in disconnection of Ms. Shahin's telecommunications services for nonpayment; (2) improper installation of telecommunications services that resulted in the disconnection of Ms. Shahin's home security services; and (3) "national origin discrimination" based on Ms. Shahin's and her husband's countries of birth. As discussed below, we find that Ms. Shahin has failed to meet the burden of proof that - as the complainant - she bears. Accordingly, we deny the Complaint.
Beginning in April 2009, Ms. Shahin purchased various services from Verizon's Delaware tariff, including two residential "voice" lines. According to Ms. Shahin, from the first month of service, Verizon's bills were "difficult to understand and very confusing." Ms. Shahin also alleges that Verizon "delayed, interrupted and duplicated" her facsimile service "in order to stretch the billable time," and that a Verizon technician disconnected her residential alarm service from the alarm company's monitoring station, thereby disrupting her security system. Ms. Shahin then stopped paying Verizon various charges that she disputed. On September 9, 2011, Verizon disconnected Ms. Shahin's voice service for non-payment.
In 2009, Ms. Shahin filed a complaint about the billing issues with the Delaware Public Service Commission. She then filed three separate informal complaints with this Commission in 2010 and 2011. Also in 2011, Ms. Shahin filed a formal complaint with the Commission, which was dismissed without prejudice because of numerous procedural deficiencies. Subsequently, on May 28, 2013, Ms. Shahin filed the instant formal complaint, alleging that Verizon violated Sections 201(b) and 202(a) of the Act.
Ms. Shahin Has Failed to Demonstrate that Verizon Violated the Act.
In a formal complaint proceeding under Section 208 of the Act, the complainant bears the burden of proof. Thus, to prevail, Ms. Shahin "must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the alleged violation of the Act or the Commission's rules actually occurred." After reviewing the record, we conclude that Ms. Shahin has failed to proffer sufficient evidence demonstrating that Verizon's conduct violated Section 201(b) or 202(a) of the Act.
To begin, nothing in the Complaint shows that Verizon's bills were unlawful. Although Ms. Shahin attaches various documents to the Complaint - including Verizon's bills, correspondence with the Delaware Public Service Commission, collection notices, a "service ticket" from ADT (the alarm service provider), correspondence with Verizon, and an informal complaint - none of these documents constitutes evidence that Verizon acted unreasonably or discriminated with regard to billing practices. The bill reprint offered appears to be in order, and Ms. Shahin provides no legal basis (nor are we aware of any) for us to conclude that a minor, isolated typographical error on a copy rises to a violation of the Act.
Likewise, there are no grounds for us to rule that Verizon's disconnection of Ms. Shahin's services was impermissible. Ms. Shahin admits that she failed to pay in full for the services she received, and she makes no argument that Verizon's disconnection of services violated a tariff, contract, or other legal obligation. Moreover, the record shows that Verizon attempted several times to work with Ms. Shahin to address her concerns (including an offer in the informal complaint process to forgive the entire owed amount), but that Ms. Shahin rejected any efforts to resolve the situation.
Ms. Shahin also failed to substantiate her facsimile-related claims. She provides no evidence that Verizon was the cause of these alleged difficulties. On the contrary, the record indicates that Verizon investigated Ms. Shahin's facsimile-related complaints and concluded that the problems pertained to Ms. Shahin's computer, i.e., not Verizon's service. In the absence of any contrary evidence or legal argument, we conclude that Verizon committed no violation.
Similarly, neither of the two documents attached to the Complaint relating to the alleged outage of Ms. Shahin's alarm service demonstrates that Verizon acted unlawfully. The "service ticket" from ADT contains only a vague notation in the "work performed" section that "Verizon disconnected phone line," and an "archive history report," purportedly from ADT, containing no references to Verizon. Without more (such as an affidavit from the ADT technician), we are unable to conclude that the alarm was in fact disabled, or even assuming it was disabled, that Verizon was the cause of this issue. And although Ms. Shahin did incur a $25 fee from ADT for the "service ticket" visit, Verizon later fully reimbursed Ms. Shahin as a "courtesy." Thus, in light of the lack of evidence connecting the alleged alarm service outage to Verizon, and Verizon's efforts to address Ms. Shahin's concerns, we are unable to find that Verizon acted unreasonably.
Finally, the Complaint fails to establish a case of discrimination. A complainant alleging discrimination under Section 202(a) of the Act must demonstrate that (1) there are "like" services at issue; (2) there are differences in the terms and conditions pursuant to which the services are provided; and (3) the differences are not reasonable. Although Ms. Shahin points to evidence of unspecified "verbal communications" with Verizon employees and her "perception" that a Verizon technician "no doubt . . . detected that [she] was foreign-born[,] . . . treated her with contempt[,] . . . [and] tried to make her [feel] stupid," these allegations, even if credited, do not amount to evidence that the terms and conditions under which Verizon provided service to Ms. Shahin were in fact different from the terms and conditions under which Verizon provided "like" services to other customers.
In sum, the record in this proceeding fails to present sufficient evidence to convince us that Verizon's actions were unreasonable or discriminatory under the Act. Consequently, we deny the Complaint.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to Sections 4(i), 4(j), 201, 202, 206, 208, and 217 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 154(i), 154(j), 201, 202, 206, 208, and 217, and Sections 1.720 - 1.736 of the Commission's rules, 47 C.F.R. §§ 1.720 - 1.736, that the Complaint is DENIED.
FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION
Marlene H. Dortch