Sometimes a group of people are all harmed in the same way. Often, not everyone knows they were harmed, and sometimes the harm is too small to make it worthwhile for one person to bring a case for themselves.
For instance, if a company ripped you for for $25, it is doubtful you would pay a lawyer to bring a suit. But if thousands of people were all ripped off by $25, a class action suit can represent all of those people at once. To do that, one person has to have harms that represent the harm that the rest of the group, or class did.
If the person is successful, then the judge will order that people (like you here with Verizon) be contacted to find out if they want to take part in the judgment. If you do, then you get the benefit - usually money or a discount. You also have the choice to opt-out of the class and bring your own lawsuit, or you can just ignore it.
The quesioner does not seek legal advice and my response above does not constitute legal advice. Nor does my response solicit legal advice. This answer is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area who regularly practices in the subject matter which your question is about. You should develop an attorney client relationship with the lawyer of your choice so that your communications will be subject to the attorney client privilege and have the other benefits of a professional relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific matter as partially described in the question
A class action is a lawsuit in which relief is sought by one or a few injured individuals on behalf of the entire class of individuals (ordinarily 40 or more) who have suffered the same problem. It is a representative suit in the sense that the plaintiff represents herself as "plaintiff" well as all class members as "class representative."
All class member must share a common issue of fact or law. Class action lawsuits are filed in federal and state courts. The judicial life of a class action is slightly different from a traditional individual lawsuit: just because a person files a class action does not make it an automatic class action. A judge must grant a request for certification for the class action to proceed as representative suit. Judge retain certain powers that are usually not available in individual suits making class actions somehow less desirable to plaintiffs. However, plaintiffs also enjoy several benefit by deciding to file a claim as class action or join one.
Contact information: email@example.com.
The practical effect of being a member of a class action lawsuit is that you don't need your own lawyer, and will share in the class award. If you "opt out" of the chance to be in the class, then you do have to get your own lawyer to pursue the claim, and while you may ultimately get more money, it would be hard to find a lawyer for class action type claim.
Often class actions combine lots and lots of small claims, often thousands of claims, which are impractical to litigate individually. The class action lawyers stand to gain a lot of fees, but the class members often only get a small amount or a coupon for future purchases, and the resolution often involves a change in the company's policy going forward.
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU COMMENT, EMAIL ME OR PHONE ME. I'm only licensed in CA. This answer doesn't make me your lawyer, and neither do follow-up comments and/or emails and/or phone calls, and you shouldn't expect me to respond to your further questions if you haven't hired me. We need an actual agreement confirmed in writing before any attorney-client relationship is formed. This answer doesn't constitute legal advice, and shouldn't be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.