CenturyLink has agreed to pay a nearly $9 million settlement with the Minnesota Attorney General’s office for “fraudulently overbilling” customers in that state.
According to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, CenturyLink also must reform its billing practices by disclosing its true prices, honoring all prices and discounts it promised to consumers, and banning sham internet fees. In addition, it is required to submit audits to the attorney general’s office.
“My job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives,” Ellison said. “That means holding accountable companies that make that harder by breaking the law. CenturyLink broke the law by fraudulently overbilling hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans and illegally raising the price Minnesotans had to pay for the company’s service. There’s no amount of money that can fully reimburse every Minnesotan that CenturyLink defrauded for all the money they were overcharged and all the time they lost in trying to get CenturyLink to do the right thing in the first place. Even so, this settlement will put money back into the pockets of thousands of Minnesotans.”
CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen tells Channel Partners his company has “appreciated the ongoing and productive dialogue” with the Minnesota attorney general’s Office.
“While we disagree 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,” he said. “Toward that end, CenturyLink has entered into a consent decree to settle disputed claims and avoid the distraction and costs of litigation. CenturyLink looks forward to continuing to serve its Minnesota customers consistent with the company’s unifying principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.”
Specifically, the settlement requires CenturyLink to pay $844,655 in refunds to 12,094 Minnesota consumers who were falsely promised a discount that they did not receive, and an additional $8 million, which the attorney general will use to distribute further refunds to harmed consumers.
The lawsuit against CenturyLink arose from the nearly 5,000 complaints about the company’s billing practices that Minnesota consumers lodged with the attorney general’s office. At the time the lawsuit was investigated and filed, CenturyLink was the most complained-about company in the attorney general’s consumer database.
In July 2017, the attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit alleging that CenturyLink lied about the price of the internet and television service it sold to consumers. During discovery, the company produced information that showed it potentially overbilled more than 300,000 Minnesota customers.
The Minnesota attorney general used information it obtained in its lawsuit to coordinate investigations with other state attorneys general. This information-sharing and coordination already has allowed Colorado, Oregon and Washington to settle with CenturyLink as well, Ellison said. In all, the settlements total more than $27 million and provide refunds for tens of thousands of customers nationwide.