CenturyLink faces pile of lawsuits over fraudulent billing

CenturyLink’s troubles over fraudulent billing practices continue to mount as a growing number of states have filed lawsuits against the telco.

Trouble for the telco has mounted since a former employee, who claims she was fired for alerting company officials about charging customers out of millions of dollars for services they never ordered.

Working for CenturyLink as a customer service and sales agent from August 2015 until October 2016, Heidi Heiser said in a lawsuit filed in Arizona State Superior Court, she was fired shortly after pointing the issue out to the service provider’s CEO Glen Post during a company Q&A session.

RELATED: CenturyLink employee claims she was fired for accusing telco of fraudulent billing practices

After Heiser filed her initial suit, a number of states have also joined a growing class action suit. Each of these states has cited consumer stories of how CenturyLink has been overbilling customers.

One of the latest states to join the suit was Arizona.

Ben Meiselas, the lead attorney on the case from Los Angeles-based firm Geragos & Geragos, told FierceTelecom in an e-mail that besides Arizona, “we previously filed in California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Colorado," adding that “we intend to file in every state.”

Meanwhile, other states like Minnesota are taking matters into their own hands.

Minnesota’s attorney general (AG) Lori Swanson has filed a lawsuit against CenturyLink (PDF), saying her office has also found evidence of repeated and systemic billing fraud at the company. One of the practices the Minnesota AG cites is the telecom industry practice of advertising one rate, then using bogus fees to charge customers more.

“I want [CenturyLink] to knock it off," Swanson said. "It is not OK for a company to quote one price and then charge another for something as basic as cable television and internet service. We want an injunction so the company stops doing this to other people, and hopefully fixes the problem for these people as well."

The Minnesota lawsuit cites 37 examples of where customers were overbilled by CenturyLink, which the AG said the telco refused to remedy even when customers provided proof of the original advertised price. In addition to charging for services that consumers did not ask for, the company apparently used fees like its internet recovery fee) to further increase prices.

"Shopping for internet and cable TV service isn’t easy if companies don’t give straight answers about the prices they will charge,” the Minnesota AG said.

Interestingly, the mounting pile of lawsuits over the fraudulent billing issue comes as the telco simplifies its broadband pricing regime. In Nevada, the company is offering consumers a price for life guarantee on three of its common internet speed tiers in an apparent move to attract and retain broadband customers from churning to cable, for example.

As part of this initiative, the service provider announced it was doing away with its broadband cost recovery fee (ICRF). CenturyLink began implement the fee in 2013. In April 2016, according to a DSLReports article, the service provider raised the fee to $4.