CenturyLink has agreed to pay a $4 million settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) in response to an investigation into consumer complaints of deceptive billing practices.
According to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, CenturyLink engaged in deceptive advertising by door-to-door salespeople, deceptive billing practices, undisclosed fees, and failing to apply promised discounts to customer accounts.
Since 2014, the Oregon DOJ has received more than 1,200 consumer complaints about CenturyLink.
“Purchasing internet, phone service and cable is confusing enough without false promises, and confusing prices and fees,” Rosenblum said. “Today’s settlement sends a clear message that hidden fees and other forms of unfair and deceptive business practices will not be tolerated in Oregon.”
CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen tells Channel Partners that while his company disagrees with the attorney general’s position, “we believe it is in the best interests of our company and our customers to amicably resolve these matters.”
“Toward that end, CenturyLink has entered into an assurance of voluntary compliance to settle disputed claims and avoid the distraction and costs of litigation,” he said. “CenturyLink looks forward to continuing to serve its Oregon customers consistent with the company’s unifying principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.”
As part of the settlement, CenturyLink also will refund $672,000 to 8,212 Oregonians who were overcharged for their services, or did not receive the promised discount, according to Rosenblum.
Oregon consumers complained that CenturyLink charged more than the promised price, or they received multiple bills each month for different amounts, were billed for services after they had cancelled the service, or were billed for modems before they were installed. Consumers also complained about the quality of service, internet speed that was much slower than promised, or internet service so slow that it was unusable.
Under the settlement, CenturyLink must: stop charging new customers the internet cost recovery fee, which was not always previously disclosed to consumers until they received their first bill; stop charging a broadband cost recovery fee; allow current customers to transition to another plan without the fee; clearly disclose all mandatory fees and charges in future advertisements; and stop charging cancellation and unreturned equipment fees if they are not disclosed at the time of sale.
In 2018, complaints about telecommunication services topped Oregon DOJ’s top 10 consumer complaints.
Oregon DOJ said it will continue to lead a separate securities class action lawsuit arising from the same conduct.