PHOENIX – Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced today that his office has secured a nearly $11 million Arizona Consent Judgment with CenturyLink to resolve allegations that the company engaged in deceptive and unfair advertising and billing practices by, among other things, failing to disclose fees and ultimately charging Arizona consumers more than the prices it promised in advertisements and sales pitches. The Consent Judgment is subject to court approval.
CenturyLink sells local and long distance telephone services, internet services, and TV services to Arizona consumers. 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 approximately $1.9 million in "Closer Discounts" that consumers never received. Pursuant to the Consent Judgment, CenturyLink is required to provide consumer restitution and refund the entire amount to Arizona consumers.
"This settlement holds CenturyLink accountable to customers and will provide significant technological infrastructure investment for the state," said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. "My office has helped recover nearly $100 million for harmed consumers since I took office and we're not slowing down. If you've been exploited or harmed by a business, file a consumer complaint with the Attorney General's Office so we can fight for you."
Under the terms of the Consent Judgment, CenturyLink will refund $1.9 million directly to Arizona consumers who did not receive a promised “Closer Discount.” Impacted customers will receive the refund on their account. CenturyLink will contact customers who no longer have active accounts to ensure compensation. Consumers with questions about the refund should contact CenturyLink.
Additionally, CenturyLink will invest an additional $2 million in improvements to fiber-optic infrastructure in areas that the Attorney General's Office (AGO) determines are in need. These improvements will help provide internet services to underserved consumers in Arizona. CenturyLink will also pay the State $7 million.
The AGO 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 Internet Cost Recovery 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.
The AGO also alleges that CenturyLink engaged in additional deceptive and unfair advertising and billing practices, including but not limited to: (1) failing to disclose or omitting terms and conditions applicable to consumer orders, such as Early Termination Fees, (2) improperly billing consumers for returned equipment, and (3) 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.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Bonham and Senior Litigation Counsel Stephanie Elliott of the Consumer Protection and Advocacy Section handled this case.
If you believe you have been the victim of consumer fraud, you can file a consumer complaint by visiting the Attorney General’s website. If you need a complaint form sent to you, you can contact the Attorney General’s Office in Phoenix at (602) 542-5763, in Tucson at (520) 628-6648, or outside the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas at (800) 352-8431.
Copy of consent judgment.