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A lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses companies marketing wireless telephones of stifling competition and cheating consumers through anti-competitive marketing and sales practices. The lawsuit brought in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against major sellers of cellular telephones and services sought class-action status against several companies it said controlled 100 percent of the wireless market. Jayme Thomas of Rutherford, N.J., and Lara Goldfeder of Manhattan accused companies including Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless Services Inc., VoiceStream Wireless Corp. and Sprint PCS of forcing consumers to buy cell phones in a package illegally tied to their cellular services. “I have not heard of this yet,” said Kim Thompson, a spokeswoman for Voicestream Wireless. “We haven’t seen it yet,” said Ritch Blasi, a spokesman for AT&T Wireless Services. Both declined to comment further, as did Dan Wilinsky, a spokesman for Sprint PCS and Howard Waterman, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless. The lawsuit sought unspecified damages for what it said were illegal practices affecting millions of consumers. It accused the companies of conspiring with one another by agreeing not to compete for wireless sales to each other’s wireless service subscribers. Scott A. Bursor, a lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Thomas and Goldfeder, said he planned to set up a Web site to attract hundreds more plaintiffs. He said he believed the lawsuit may break new legal ground. The lawsuit suggested that the court help decide whether telephones and phone services are separate products and whether the defendants have enough economic power to restrain competition, among other questions. “It’s just lately gotten to the point where the industry is sufficiently concentrated in the hands of just a few companies that this sort of lawsuit makes sense now,” he said. “These companies have so much power over wireless networks that aggressive marketing practices such as this go beyond what is permitted under antitrust laws,” he said. The plaintiffs had each recently purchased cellular telephones and services. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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