Minnesota’s Attorney General Lori Swanson is taking internet provider CenturyLink to court, claiming the company is charging customers significantly more than the prices quoted by sales agents.
The lawsuit filed by Swanson on Wednesday alleges CenturyLink has “fraudulently charged some Minnesota consumers more than the price the company quoted them at the time of sale.” It further accuses the company of refusing to honor the original quoted rates once the discrepancies are brought to the company’s attention.
A CenturyLink spokesman indicates the company is “disappointed that the Attorney General has chosen a press conference to communicate her concerns instead of contacting CenturyLink directly.” However, he adds the company has been “cooperating with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office since its inquiry began and (has) provided all information requested.”
“We take these allegations seriously and will review and respond in due course,” the spokesman says.
The complaint cites stories from a number of consumers who were quoted one price but charged another. In more than one case, the charges were nearly double the quoted rate. One man from Blaine was reportedly quoted a base price of $39.97 for cable service, but was billed $71.97 per month. Another individual from Columbia Heights received a quote of $14.95 per month for internet service, but was charged a rate of $29.95 per month, the lawsuit notes.
“Shopping for internet and cable TV service isn’t easy if companies don’t give straight answers about the prices they will charge,” Swanson comments.
Swanson’s office alleges CenturyLink is aware of the existence of these discrepancies and knowingly provides customers with inaccurate information.
“This knowledge is so ingrained that a specialist responding to a Minnesota complaint simply assumed that CenturyLink would not have provided the consumer with accurate information,” the lawsuit states.
There are multiple reasons for the problem, according to the lawsuit, not the least of which is CenturyLink’s “complex and elaborate pricing system” that includes more than 1,500 different scenarios that can impact base rates. On top of those fluctuating rates, CenturyLink also charges numerous fees for accessories, equipment, activation, and more that can add up to more than the base rate itself, the complaint indicates.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, restitution, and civil penalties.
Filed Under: Industry regulations