DENVER – The internet, phone and cable provider CenturyLink will pay more than $8.4 million for charging hidden fees and overbilling customers in Colorado, state Attorney General Phil Weiser announced on Thursday.
Weiser said CenturyLink deceived customers by promising discounts and refunds for new sign-ups and not delivering; falsely advertising guaranteed locked prices; and unfairly hiding fees.
“One of CenturyLink’s main selling points is that its prices are low and affordable. Yet, we received hundreds of complaints from consumers that their bills were more than the advertised price or the price that sales agents quoted them," Weiser said in a news release. "This sticker shock often was a result of misleading hidden fees, overcharges for services, and CenturyLink’s failure to deliver discounts that they promised to consumers when they signed up for services."
The Colorado Attorney General's office began investigating CenturyLink in October 2017. In one example of the allegations, Weiser's office said CenturyLink misled customers about the cost of its internet service, creating a hidden surcharge of an "Internet Cost Recovery Fee" that began as 99 cents per month and grew to $3.99 over three years.
On customers' bills, CenturyLink listed the fee alongside government fees, making customers believe it was a standard fee or tax, the news release said.
In another example, CenturyLink offered internet for $19.95 per month and guaranteed a price lock for five years. But the internet price was more than the advertised price, when factoring in the internet cost recovery fee, which increased over time, Weiser's office said.
CenturyLink agreed in Denver District Court to refund customers $1,701,000 for the overbilling and pay $6,775,000 to the state for violating the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. Some of the money paid to the state will be returned to customers, if possible, Weiser's office said.
CenturyLink also agreed to not hide fees and charges on customers' bills, send customers an order confirmation with a complete bill summary withing three days of placing an order and drop the internet cost recovery fee.