Internet service provider CenturyLink is under fire after engaging in deceptive billing practices, prompting a $4 million settlement with the Oregon Department of Justice.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said the company also engaged in deceptive advertising and undisclosed fees, failing to apply promised discounts. The global telecommunications company will refund $672,000 to 8,212 Oregonians who were overcharged for their services.
“Purchasing internet, phone service and cable is confusing enough without false promises, and confusing prices and fees,” Rosenblum said in a statement.
“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.”
Now CenturyLink must stop charging new customers excess fees, including an “Internet Cost Recovery Fee”, a fine that wasn’t previously disclosed until customers received their first bill. The company must clearly disclose all mandatory charges in future advertisements. Customers must also be allowed to transition to another plan or cancel services without a fee if the fee wasn’t disclosed.
The Oregon Department of Justice opened an investigation into CenturyLink in 2014 in response to more than 1,000 consumer complaints, including many citing poor billing practices and slow service quality. CenturyLink also failed to inform consumers of terms and conditions that could affect billing for services they never received, according to the state. In 2018, CenturyLink topped Oregon DOJ’s top 10 list of consumer complaints — now, those complaints amount to over 1,200.
Rosenblum said any Oregonians who feel they’ve been charged with undisclosed fees should file a consumer complaint through the Oregon DOJ.