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Minnesota AG's office settles with Frontier Communications

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison |  Photo: Minnesota Attorney General's Office

Associated Press contributed to this report
Updated: July 14, 2020 12:42 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says his office has settled an investigation into possible deceptive practices in Frontier Communications' billing and sale of internet services. Frontier agreed to fully disclose its prices for internet service to new customers before they take service.

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“It’s hard enough to afford your life these days. For so many folks, especially in Greater Minnesota, affording your life means being able to rely on the promises your telecoms provider makes for the internet service you depend on. For too many Minnesotans, Frontier broke its promises,” Attorney General Ellison said in a release on Monday. “With this settlement with Frontier, and following the resolution of our lawsuits against CenturyLink and Comcast/Xfinity, now most Minnesotans can trust that they’ll be getting what they paid for from their telecoms providers, and that they’re paying what they were promised and no more.”

Many current customers will be allowed to cancel their service without penalty.

Frontier also agreed to invest at least $10 million over four years to improve its broadband network and to pay $750,000 in restitution that Ellison's office can distribute to Frontier’s customers.

Frontier provides telephone and internet service to about 90,000 customers in Minnesota, many of whom live outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and have limited options for high-speed internet service.

According to the release: Attorney General Ellison’s settlement resolves these allegations by requiring Frontier to take the following steps:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Reform its sales and advertising practices to ensure customers are informed of the speed capability of internet service at their specific locations.
  4. 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.
  5. Ensure that every customer’s maximum internet speed is at least 90 percent of the maximum speed advertised in the customer’s service plans.
  6. 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. 
  7. Pay restitution of $750,000 that the Attorney General’s Office can distribute to Frontier’s customers for past harm.

In January of 2019, the Minnesota Department of Commerce filed a separate report with the Public Utilities Commission, which found that the telecommunications provider failed to provide adequate, reliable phone and internet service to Minnesota customers.  The Department of Commerce found that “[m]any of the issues reported by consumers show direct violations of Minnesota law and [Minnesota Public Utilities] Commission rules, and indicate broad, systemic problems with Frontier’s service quality, recordkeeping and business operations.” The Attorney General's Office began its investigation of Frontier before the Department's report and the Attorney General's settlement does not impact the Department's or the PUC's investigation.
 

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Associated Press contributed to this report

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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