SALEM, Ore. — An investigation that began in 2014 has culminated in telecom company CenturyLink settling with the state of Oregon for $4 million in addition to other concessions, according to the state Attorney General's office.
The state alleged that CenturyLink engaged in deceptive advertising and billing practices, charging customers undisclosed fees, and failing to provide promised discounts to customers.
“Purchasing internet, phone service and cable is confusing enough without false promises, and confusing prices and fees. 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,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.
Oregon's Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation into CenturyLink back in 2014 after receiving more than 1,000 consumer complaints, according to the Attorney General's office, "including complaints about the company misrepresenting the price of services, failing to inform consumers of terms and conditions that could affect the price, and billing consumers for services they never received."
In 2018, complaints about telecommunication companies topped the DOJ's list of top 10 consumer complaints. Since 2014, the number of complaints against CenturyLink alone have gone beyond 1,200, according to Rosenblum's office.
Under the settlement, CenturyLink will have to refund $672,000 to more than 8,000 Oregonians who were either overcharged or did not receive a promised discount. The telecom is supposed to contact those people directly.
The settlement also stipulates that CenturyLink must do the following:
- Stop charging new customers the “Internet Cost Recovery Fee,” a fee that was not always previously disclosed to consumers until they received their first bill.
- Stop charging a “Broadband Cost Recovery Fee.”
- Allow current customers to have an opportunity to transition to another plan without the fee.
- Clearly disclose all mandatory fees and charges in future advertisements.
- Stop charging cancellation and unreturned equipment fees if they are not disclosed at the time of sale.
Rosenblum's office said that the DOJ is also pursuing a separate securities class action lawsuit against the company for similar conduct.
Any Oregonian who believes they have received bills with undisclosed fees can file a consumer complaint, or contact the Attorney General Consumer Hotline at 877-877-9392.