Verizon sued for leasing unnecessary extra Fios set tops

The complaint centers on Verizon’s high-end “Quantum” Fios video tier.

Verizon has been sued in Pennsylvania by customers who say the operator is leasing extra Fios set tops for $10 a month without telling subscribers that standard streaming devices could be used in the video service instead.

The class-action suit was filed in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. A copy of the complaint was obtained and reported on by the Philadelphia Inquirer

The complaint centers on Verizon’s high-end “Quantum” Fios video tier. Customers lease the service’s primary gateway for $12 a month. But unlike competing pay-TV products, the Fios service can be accessed via home Wi-Fi in other rooms using OTT devices like Roku, Amazon Fire or Google Chromecast. 

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The suit says that Verizon isn’t telling customers this when it talks them into leasing extra-room set tops for $10 a month. 

Verizon "deceives and confuses its Quantum customers by remaining silent regarding the availability of set-top box alternatives," the suit said. "Instead, Verizon deceptively claims that a set-top box connection is required to view content on all its customers' television sets."

The class action claims to represent 140,000 Pennsylvania customers who subscribed to Quantum TV and leased more than one set top from June 2015 to September 2016. 

Verizon said it won’t comment on pending litigation. But in court papers, it claims the suit has no merit. 

Of course, the ability to replace leased pay-TV set tops with popular, inexpensive streaming devices like Apple TV and Roku was a key agenda item for recently departed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. That agenda was dealt a fatal blow with the sudden and dramatic change in political wind, with the election of President Donald Trump moving Democrat Wheeler out of the chairman’s seat. New FCC Chair Ajit Pai had been a staunch critic of Wheeler’s set-top plan and has permanently shelved it. 

While critics of pay-TV’s leased set-top business will find no recourse in the FCC, the courts hold limited promise. A class-action suit filed in 2004 against the erstwhile Cablevision recently resulted in customers receiving nominal service credits.