- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2005

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas attorney general sued the nation’s largest Internet-based phone service provider yesterday, saying Vonage failed to clearly inform customers that its service excludes access to 911 services.

The action follows a case in which a 17-year-old girl was not able to call 911 on her family’s Vonage service during an armed robbery in which both her parents were shot.

Filed under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, the lawsuit seeks to stop Vonage Holdings Corp. from misrepresenting the type of emergency service it offers.

It also seeks to require the company to more clearly inform consumers the 911 dialing feature is not automatically activated when they sign up for the service.

The lawsuit seeks $20,000 per violation. The service has more than 500,000 subscribers.

Attorney General Greg Abbott said the information is only found in fine print on the Web site.

Brooke Schulz, spokesman for Vonage Holdings Corp., said customers are informed of the separate activation required for 911 service on two pages on the Internet registration form. She also said e-mail notifications are sent to customers who fail to activate the 911 service.

Ms. Schulz said she hasn’t seen the lawsuit but that the company is willing to work with Mr. Abbott’s office.

“We’re not clear what the issues are with the disclosures,” she said. “We’re at a loss as to what they want us to change, but we’re open to any changes they want.”

Unlike traditional phones, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, telephony converts sound into small packets of data, scatters them across the Internet and then reassembles them at the destination.

VoIP service providers often can offer unlimited local and long-distance calls for less money.

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