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CenturyLink ordered to pay $6.1 million to Washington state over hidden fees

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OLYMPIA, Wash. -- CenturyLink has been ordered to pay $6.1 million to Washington state to settle a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office over hidden fees on customer bills.

According to a news release from Ferguson's office, the internet company added charges to customer bills without accurately disclosing those fees, impacting 650,000 Washingtonians.

CenturyLink also failed to provide discounts that their sales agents had promised to about 16,000 Washington residents.

About $900,000 of the money has been or will be directly refunded to Washington consumers to make up for discounts they were promised, but did not receive, the AG's office said.

Ferguson will set aside the remainder until a nationwide class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota is resolved.

If the roughly 650,000 eligible Washington residents receive less than full restitution through the class action, the remainder of the $6.1 million will be distributed to residents who haven't gotten everything they are owed.

If the class action lawsuit does give full restitution, Ferguson's office will use the money to continue funding the Honest Fees Initiative.

If you think you are paying hidden or illegal fees, you can file a complaint with the AG's office here.

The Attorney General’s Office began its investigation into CenturyLink in 2016, after receiving complaints from consumers that their actual bills were more than the advertised price, or the price that they were promised by sales representatives.

There were three main fees CenturyLink did not disclose: a broadcast fee of $2.49 per month, a sports fee of $2.49 per month, and CenturyLink’s “Internet Cost Recovery Fee, ranging from $0.99 to $1.99 per month.

CenturyLink charged its Internet Cost Recovery Fee to 650,000 Washingtonians. Of those, another 60,000 were also charged the broadcast and sports fees. These fees alone added up to $7 per month to a television subscriber’s bill — $84 per year.

The investigation also found that CenturyLink did not adequately disclose additional taxes and fees for its cable, internet and telephone services.

CenturyLink sales agents would offer “closer discounts” ranging from $5 to $10 per month, with an average yearly discount of $55. Between 2013 and 2016, about 16,000 Washington residents never received the discount they were promised.

CenturyLink has or will refund a total of $887,530 to those consumers directly. The refunds must be completed by March 31, 2020.

In addition to the refunds and paying the remaining $5.2 million to Washington, CenturyLink is required to:

  • Disclose the actual price of its services, including charges and fees, in sales materials
  • Disclose the actual price of its services, including charges and fees, in its advertising
  • Provide an order confirmation with a complete bill summary within three days after consumers order services from CenturyLink
  • Honor any and all incentives and discounts promised to consumers
  • Stop charging its Internet Cost Recovery Fee

CenturyLink is also required to submit compliance reports to the Attorney General’s Office over the next three years, and must retain all sales call recordings and correspondence related to the sales for two years.

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