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CenturyLink to Pay Another $11 Million for ‘Unfair’ Advertising, Billing

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CenturyLink has agreed to pay a nearly $11 million settlement with the Arizona Attorney General’s office to resolve allegations that it engaged in “deceptive and unfair” advertising and billing practices.

This is the latest settlement with Centurylink for its billing practices. In January, the communications giant agreed to a nearly $9 million settlement in Minnesota, and a $4 million settlement in Oregon.

According to Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, CenturyLink offered consumers various “closer discounts” as an incentive to sign up for service, but frequently failed to apply discounts to consumers’ accounts. Between 2013 and 2016, CenturyLink promised Arizona consumers about $1.9 million in closer discounts that consumers never received, he said.

Pursuant to the settlement, CenturyLink is required to provide consumer restitution and refund the entire amount to Arizona consumers. The settlement is subject to court approval.

“This settlement holds CenturyLink accountable to customers and will provide significant technological infrastructure investment for the state,” Brnovich said. “My office has helped recover nearly $100 million for harmed consumers since I took office and we’re not slowing down.”

CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen tells Channel Partners that “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 this matter.”

CenturyLink;s Mark Molzen

CenturyLink;s Mark Molzen

“Toward that end, CenturyLink entered into a consent judgment to settle disputed claims, and avoid the distraction and costs of litigation,” he said. “CenturyLink looks forward to continuing to serve its Arizona customers consistent with the company’s unifying principles of fairness, honesty and integrity.”

CenturyLink is in the process of issuing payments/credits to Arizona customers who may not have received closer discounts, with an anticipated completion date of March 31, Mozen said.

Under the terms of the settlement, CenturyLink will refund $1.9 million directly to Arizona consumers who did not receive a promised closer discount,” according to the attorney general’s office. Impacted customers will receive the refund on their account. CenturyLink will contact customers who no longer have active accounts to ensure compensation.

Also, CenturyLink will invest an additional $2 million in improvements to fiber-optic infrastructure in areas that the attorney general’s office determines are in need. These improvements will help provide internet services to underserved consumers in Arizona.

CenturyLink also will pay the state $7 million.

The attorney general’s office alleges that CenturyLink failed to disclose and omitted material facts regarding certain fees it added to consumers’ bills, including the internet cost recovery fee. The fee is a discretionary, CenturyLink-imposed fee that was not adequately disclosed to consumers and effectively increased the monthly fee for consumers enrolled in CenturyLink’s price-lock promotion, it said.

The attorney general’s office also alleges that CenturyLink engaged in additional deceptive and unfair advertising and billing practices, including but not limited to: failing to disclose or omitting terms and conditions applicable to consumer orders, such as early termination fees; improperly billing consumers for returned equipment; and charging consumers after they cancelled services.

In addition to the payments and infrastructure investment, CenturyLink is required to:

  • Stop charging the internet cost recovery fee for all new customers, and permit existing customers who are paying the fee to switch plans or cancel services without paying an early termination fee.
  • Fully disclose all material terms and conditions applicable to its sales offers and discounts, including all fees and surcharges.
  • Send order confirmations within three business days.
  • Charge consumers only the amount quoted to them.

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