ST. PAUL, Minn. - A phone, cable and internet giant is being sued by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson for allegedly billing customers for higher amounts than they were quoted by its sales representatives.
The lawsuit, filed in Anoka County, maintains that CenturyLink also refused to honor the prices quoted by its reps when customers called to report those bogus bills. It seeks an end to the practice, restitution and civil penalties.
“Shopping for internet and cable TV service isn’t easy if companies don’t give straight answers about the prices they will charge,” said Swanson in a statement. The AG also noted that internet and cable television companies aggressively compete for business with one another and that many consumers try to shop for the lowest prices.
Swanson's complaint filed against CenturyLink cites numerous examples of consumers who were quoted one price but charged another. A man from Blaine was quoted a base monthly rate of $39.97 for cable service, but was charged a base rate of $71.97 per month instead. The AG says a man from Columbia Heights was quoted a base monthly rate of $14.95 for internet service, but was charged a base rate of $29.95 per month instead.
Investigators maintain that CenturyLink's internal records acknowledge the problem. In one e-mail from 2015 an 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 its [sic] over $100 monthly. So I tend to get on the defensive for the customer at times because of the large amount that are misquoted."
• One company employee told a customer “you were misquoted,” but that “I can’t give it [the quoted price] to you, no one can”;
• Another MN customer was told CenturyLink's offers are “not binding”;
•A complaining customer was informed that the company’s discounts need not be honored because they are “a gift from us to you”;
•An agent told a customer that the previous agent she spoke with didn’t “even know that offers we have to offer in the first place.”
CenturyLink subsidiaries named in the lawsuit 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.
CenturyLink responded to the lawsuit in an email to KARE 11 on Wednesday, saying:
"We have been cooperating with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office since its inquiry began and have provided all information requested. We are disappointed that the Attorney General has chosen a press conference to communicate her concerns instead of contacting CenturyLink directly. We take these allegations seriously and will review and respond in due course."