A new class-action lawsuit accuses Verizon Wireless of misrepresenting to New York consumers the intended target of a “metropolitan commuter transportation district” tax charged to subscribers by the No. 1 wireless provider.
“Defendant stated in its monthly bills to consumers, as well as in other places, that this charge was a tax that defendant is ‘required by law to bill customers.’ In truth, defendant was under no legal obligation to bill customers for this amount since that charge is one that is imposed on wireless providers, not on consumers,” stated the lawsuit filed by Albert Levy on behalf of himself and others in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Levy included a copy of his August-September 2008 bill from Verizon Wireless showing a 44-cent charge under the heading of “Taxes, Governmental Surcharges and Fees.” In addition to the metropolitan commuter transportation district tax, there is a state enhanced 911 fee, a New York City 911 surcharge, a state sales tax and a New York City sales tax.
“Tellingly, one of Verizon Wireless’ largest competitors – Sprint [Nextel Corp.] – historically has not charged consumers this amount at all, saving Sprint customers a considerable amount of money,” the 27-page lawsuit stated.
Verizon Wireless replied that the lawsuit’s tax angst is misplaced.
“This is just silly. It’s a tax on wireless customers, and we’re billing it correctly,” said Jeffrey Nelson, a Verizon Wireless spokesman.
In the past, the wireless industry has found itself entangled in litigation and regulatory skirmishes over line-item charges in monthly bills.
It is unclear from the New York state statute creating the tax whether the lawsuit has merit or whether Verizon Wireless is within the law in assessing the commuter tax on mobile phone users.