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Frontier fined $900,000 for hiding fees from Internet customers

Washington state's attorney general says the fine will be used to compensate subscribers.

Washington state's attorney general says the fine will be used to compensate subscribers.

(Photo: Pixabay)

Frontier will have to pay $900,000 to the state of Washington after the attorney general there found the communications company didn’t disclose surcharges and fees in advertised prices.

That failure meant Frontier customers were lured into promising deals that turned out to be more expensive when the bills came due.

In a proposed settlement filed in state court, officials in Washington say Frontier’s regional subsidiary Frontier Northwest “engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices” that violated state law.

One particular state law says communications companies that offer phone, Internet and pay television service must conspicuously disclose “the estimated amount of taxes, fees or other recurring charges” when a customer signs up for service, officials said.

Most of the violations involved surcharges and fees for Frontier’s broadband Internet service. State investigators said they uncovered evidence that proved Frontier Northwest often didn’t provide Internet speeds to customers as advertised and concealed an Internet infrastructure surcharge from subscribers. In some cases, Frontier implied to customers the infrastructure fee was government mandated when it was not.

The proposed settlement filed in state court on Wednesday says Frontier neither accepts nor denies the state’s claims.

Nonetheless, the Connecticut-based communications company has agreed to pay $900,000 to settle the investigation. The fine will be used to compensate consumers who filed complaints over unfair billing practices.

In addition to the fine, Frontier must also agree to stop charging customers the Internet infrastructure fee within 90 days of the settlement and must completely eliminate it for all new and current customers by next year.

Under the settlement, Frontier will be on the hook for the fee, even though it sold its regional operations to WaveDivision, also known as Wave Broadband. Prior to the sale, Frontier declared bankruptcy earlier this year; the proposed settlement with Washington state investigators is subject to the approval of a bankruptcy judge.

If approved, the state’s attorney general says it will impose conditions related to the elimination of surcharges and others on WaveDivision as a condition of acquiring the business, and it will apply to any other Frontier subsidiary if the company decides to offer service in Washington state again.