May 22, 2024 8:59 pm

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Lumen will pay $825,000 to customers over illegal pandemic disconnections

OLYMPIA—Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday that Lumen Technologies, formerly CenturyLink, will pay a total of $825,000 to 1,099 Washington telephone customers it disconnected during the pandemic in violation of the emergency health and safety moratorium. The payment resolves two separate investigations by Ferguson’s Public Counsel Unit and his Consumer Protection Division.

Lumen is a telecommunications company that provides network and cloud services, among other offerings. It also provides residential and commercial local and long-distance telephone service to 18 states, including Washington. According to the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission (UTC), Lumen is the state’s largest local telephone company, serving approximately 650,000 residential and business lines.

Lumen will provide customers with $707.55 for each unlawful disconnection from telephone service they experienced between March 23, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. Where Lumen disconnected a customer multiple times, that customer will receive $707.55 for each disconnection. Former Lumen customers will receive a check in the mail, and current customers will receive a credit on their bill. All impacted customers will also receive a letter from the Attorney General’s Office explaining Lumen’s conduct that led to them receiving the bill credit or refund.

Checks are expected to go out by February 10, 2024.

In addition to the $825,000 payment, Lumen must verify to the Attorney General’s Office that it has refunded all reconnection and late fees the company charged to more than 35,000 customers during the pandemic. If it finds any customers were charged fees it has not already refunded, the company must refund those fees, with interest.

Lumen has already returned more than $1.3 million to customers that it charged in violation of the emergency proclamation.

Bob Ferguson

“Lumen’s conduct resulted in Washingtonians losing a critical lifeline during the pandemic,” Ferguson said. “This outcome compensates Washingtonians who were harmed, provides accountability for unlawful conduct, and reduces the likelihood of similar conduct in the future. I appreciate Lumen’s willingness to work with my legal team to reach this resolution.”

The Governor issued a proclamation during the pandemic that prohibited telecommunication companies from disconnecting customers from landline services, as well as prohibiting late fees or reconnection fees. The proclamation was in effect from March 23, 2020, through September 30, 2021.

The proclamation preserved communication during the pandemic for telephone customers — like rural Washingtonians or those without cell phones or consistent service. Without it, residents could not call for help in emergencies, or stay in contact with loved ones over the phone.

Despite the proclamation, Lumen disconnected 1,099 customers, 67 of them more than once.

Thursday’s resolution is in addition to $692,250 in penalties the UTC has levied against Lumen for disconnecting some customers in violation of the moratorium. In October, the UTC reduced Lumen’s penalty from $923,000. As part of the resolution, Lumen will not challenge the UTC’s penalties any further.

Penalties paid to the UTC in these cases are used to help fund the commission’s public benefit and education programs and are not used to fund its operations.

Consumer Protection Division Chief Laura Clinton, Public Counsel Unit chief Lisa Gafken, Assistant Attorneys General Joe Kanada and Michael Bradley and regulatory analyst Corey Dahl handled the case for Washington.

The Public Counsel Unit advocates for the interests of consumers on major rate cases, mergers, rulemakings and other proceedings before the UTC. More information about Public Counsel’s work is available on the Attorney General’s Public Counsel web page.

SOURCE: Office of Washington’s Attorney General

FEATURED IMAGE: Lumen Facebook Page

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