Attorney General Tong Announces Settlement With Frontier Communications to Expand High-Speed Internet Access, End Hidden Internet Fee, and Protect Consumers From Unacceptable Marketing and Sales Tactics
Monetary and Injunctive Terms Worth Over $60 Million(Hartford, CT) – Attorney General William Tong today announced a settlement with Frontier Communications worth over $60 million to dramatically expand access to high-speed internet for Frontier customers in economically distressed communities, end a hidden monthly $6.99 internet surcharge, and force significant improvements in Frontier’s marketing and customer service. The settlement resolves a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and Department of Consumer Protection into whether Frontier deceived or misled consumers in the marketing and sales of internet services.
In this investigation, the offices jointly reviewed over 1,400 consumer complaints regarding Frontier. These complaints concerned charges for equipment already returned, poor internet quality, unsatisfactory customer service, charges that exceeded promised rates, and charges that continued after services had been cancelled.
“Frontier failed Connecticut consumers. Their DSL internet quality was slow and unreliable, and their customer service was unacceptable. They tacked on hidden fees, charged families for returned equipment, and kept charging customers even after services had been cancelled. That ends now. Our settlement requires Frontier to invest in high-quality, high-speed fiber for communities without adequate internet options today-- bringing access to 40,000 households most harmed by the company’s sub-par DSL service. In addition, Frontier has agreed to overhaul their customer service, and to end the hidden $6.99 monthly internet fee that cost Connecticut families $84 last year alone. Frontier must pay another $1 million to the state, and put up $200,000 to directly compensate consumers who have been wronged,” said Attorney General Tong. “We intend to hold Frontier accountable to every word of this agreement. If you continue to have any problems with Frontier, we want to hear from you.”
Customers continuing to have problems with Frontier internet service should file a complaint online with the Office of the Attorney General here: https://www.dir.ct.gov/ag/complaint/.
“Internet is a critical utility for most people, especially through the challenges of the past several years,” said DCP Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull. “Improving customer service and ending hidden fees is a positive result for everyone, and the increased access to high-speed internet promised by this settlement will benefit our most economically distressed communities. Thank you to the hardworking staff at DCP and the Attorney General’s Office for their effort in reviewing thousands of complaints and reaching this settlement that will benefit Connecticut consumers.”
Today’s settlement requires Frontier to invest $42.5 million over the next 3.5 years to upgrade existing, outdated DSL internet service to fiber internet. The agreement requires that at least half of those upgrades be made in economically distressed communities, urban and rural, bringing high-speed, more reliable internet to as many as 40,000 families in need. The agreement provides protections for consumers offered the upgrade, including a 45-day period to decide whether to transition to fiber internet, protections against early termination or disconnection fees if they elect to cancel Frontier service, access to new customer promotional rates, and information about internet subsidies through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP provides a discount up to $30 per month on the cost of internet service for eligible low-income consumers.
The agreement also forces Frontier to stop collecting a hidden $6.99 monthly “Internet Infrastructure Surcharge” which cost those customers levied the surcharge about $84 per year and an estimated $16 million statewide last year. The agreement further requires Frontier to make a $1 million payment to the state and put up $200,000 for credits and refunds to consumers who filed complaints starting in 2019.
The agreement imposes a comprehensive list of accountability measures for the next six years, including new price and billing disclosures, advertisement disclosures that address the company’s DSL representations, requirements that the company deliver promised speeds or provide options for consumers who do not receive promised speeds, assurances that the company will implement transparent and fair cancellation and equipment return processes, and more. Should the company fail to adhere to its high-speed internet upgrade commitments, the Office of the Attorney General has the right to seek $6 million in penalties.
Paralegal Specialist Casey Rybak, Legal Investigator Caylee Ribeiro, Assistant Attorneys General Lauren Bidra, Brendan Flynn, John Wright, and Jose Rene Martinez, and Deputy Associate Attorney General Mike Wertheimer, head of the Consumer Protection Section assisted the Attorney General in this matter.
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