CenturyLink lawsuit in Minnesota over cable, internet billing

Minnesota’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit against CenturyLink for billing higher amounts than sales agents quoted to customers for cable TV and internet service. According to the lawsuit, the company often refused to honor the quoted prices to consumers who catch the discrepancies, and CenturyLink’s internal records acknowledge the problem.

In the lawsuit, Attorney General Lori Swanson cites multiple examples of price complaints. For example, a man from Blaine was quoted a base monthly rate of $39.97 for cable, but was charged a base rate of $71.97 per month instead. A man from Columbia Heights was quoted a base monthly rate of $14.95 for internet, but was charged a base rate of $29.95 per month.

The excuses

CenturyLink gave varying excuses to customers as to why it would not honor the quotes prices, including:

“You were misquoted,” but that “I can’t give it [the quoted price] to you, no one can.”

That its offers are “not binding.”

That the company’s discounts need not be honored because they are “a gift from us to you.”

That the previous agent the customer spoke to didn’t “even know that offers we have to offer in the first place.”

‘A whole pile’ of Minnesota complaints

The lawsuit cites an email from 2015 in which a CenturyLink employee described receiving “so many” complaints every day and that “maybe 1 out of 5 are quoted correctly or close enough.  I have one today quoted $39 and it’s over $100 monthly.  So I tend to get on the defensive for the customer at times because of the large amount that are misquoted.  As in many cases, the customer calls in for several months and [is] promised call backs, passed around, or cut off before going to the AG, PUC, FCC or BBB . . . .”

Another company employee said in a recording “there are not enough people to do the work” of responding to complaints and that she had a “whole pile of Minnesota [complaints] to go through …. they usually come in groups of ten.”

What you should do

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office encourages cable and internet customers to ask for all details about the service they are purchasing, including the total monthly price with all taxes, fees, and surcharges. They should also confirm the length of time the price is valid and any exceptions that might increase the amount they will be charged. One critical extra step -- consumers should ask the company to confirm its offer in writing.

Lawsuit details

The lawsuit was filed in Anoka County District Court against CenturyTel Broadband Services LLC, d/b/a CenturyLink Broadband; Qwest Broadband Services, Inc., d/b/a CenturyLink; and Qwest Corporation, d/b/a CenturyLink QC. It seeks injunctive relief, restitution, and civil penalties.