REGIONAL— Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has reached a settlement with Frontier Communications that’s designed to resolve concerns about the telecom’s deceptive and …
REGIONAL— Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has reached a settlement with Frontier Communications that’s designed to resolve concerns about the telecom’s deceptive and misleading business billing and sales practices. The settlement comes at the conclusion of an investigation by the Attorney General’s office into issues first raised in reporting by the Timberjay in late 2017.
Under the settlement, known as an Assurance of Discontinuance, Frontier and its affiliates in Minnesota agree to fully disclose its prices for internet service to new customers before they take service, allow many current customers to cancel their current service without penalty, make significant investments to upgrade its network to provide better service, and pay restitution for past harm.
Frontier provides telephone and internet service to approximately 90,000 customers in Minnesota, including a large portion of northeastern Minnesota, including Tower-Soudan, Ely, and Embarrass. Minnesotans who are customers of Frontier may submit a claim for restitution through a dedicated claim form on the Attorney General’s website, or by calling 651-296-3353 (Metro) or 800-657-3787 (Greater Minnesota).
“It’s hard enough to afford your life these days,” said Attorney General Ellison. “For so many folks, especially in Greater Minnesota, affording your life means being able to rely on the promises your telecomsprovider makes for the internet service you depend on. For too many Minnesotans, Frontier broke its promises.”
Based on its investigation, the Attorney General’s Office alleged that Frontier used a variety of deceptive and misleading practices to overcharge its customers, such as:
• Billing customers more than they were quoted by Frontier’s agents.
• Failing to disclose fees and surcharges in its sales presentations and advertising materials.
• Billing customers for services that were not delivered.
The attorney general also alleged that Frontier sold Minnesotans expensive internet services with so-called “maximum speed” ratings that were not attainable, and that Frontier improperly advertised its service as “reliable,” when in fact it did not provide enough bandwidth for customers to consistently receive their expected service.
Attorney General Ellison’s settlement resolves these allegations by requiring Frontier to take the following steps:
• Clearly disclose the important terms of its internet service to potential customers at the time it sells them internet service. This disclosure must include the exact “base price” for Frontier’s service; estimated amounts of any taxes, fees, surcharges, and one-time fees; and any recurring charges. Frontier must also disclose the time period that the customer will be charged this amount, and any applicable cancellation charge.
• Provide all new customers with a written Order Confirmation that identifies the customer’s total expected charges and provide customers with the ability to cancel service without charge before installation.
• Reform its sales and advertising practices to ensure customers are informed of the speed capability of internet service at their specific locations.
• Notify existing customers who are not receiving internet service at the maximum speed they are paying for and allow those customers to change to a lower-priced plan or discontinue service at no cost.
• Ensure that every customer’s maximum internet speed is at least 90 percent of the maximum speed advertised in the customer’s service plans.
• Invest at least $10 million over four years to improve its broadband network. This amount is in addition to any money Frontier may receive from outside government grants, and its current commitments for improvements.
• Pay restitution of $750,000 that the Attorney General’s Office can distribute to Frontier’s customers for past harm.
Before entering into this settlement, Frontier had filed for bankruptcy in New York.