Are you a CenturyLink customer? This lawsuit says the company may have defrauded you

CenturyLink held its Channel Partners Conference and Expo in April in Las Vegas.
CenturyLink held its Channel Partners Conference and Expo in April in Las Vegas. Provided by CenturyLink

A class-action lawsuit filed in Idaho accuses telecom giant CenturyLink of defrauding its customers of millions, possibly billions, of dollars.

The lawsuit was filed Sunday in U.S. District Court in Boise on behalf of Mandi Hanifen, who lives in Ada County. The lawsuit was filed Idaho attorney Bonner C. Walsh and a Los Angeles firm, Geragos & Geragos, which has filed similar lawsuits against CenturyLink in the past 10 days in four other states where the company operates — California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

A CenturyLink representative for the Idaho region did not immediately return a Statesman call and email seeking comment.

For a judge to certify the lawsuit as a class-action, it must have more than 150 plaintiffs who collectively claim damages of more than $5 million. Hanifen’s attorneys say they have received “a massive and unprecedented response from Idaho consumers who similarly allege they have been defrauded by CenturyLink … with the common theme of CenturyLink billing false charges and then sending consumers into collections.”

Damages in this case are “preliminarily estimated to be between $600 million and $12 billion, based on CenturyLink’s approximately 5 million broadband subscribers,” according to the complaint.

Additionally, on June 14, former CenturyLink employee Heidi Hauser filed a whistleblower complaint in Arizona alleging CenturyLink fired her after she reported to her supervisors that billing and sales practices she observed appeared to be unlawful.

The lawsuits come as the Monroe, La., telecommunications company is in the midst of a $34 billion merger with Level 3 Communications Inc.

Hanifen’s story

Hanifen, 36, is the lead class-action representative for Idaho.

According to the complaint:

Hanifen said she terminated her internet service with CenturyLink in December 2015 because of poor service. Upon termination, her account showed CenturyLink owed her $26. She received no further bills or communication from CenturyLink after she canceled.

In May 2016, Hanifen learned from her credit-reporting services that she had received a negative credit report from “CenturyTel,” a name she did not recognize. Upon further investigation, she learned CenturyTel is an older name for CenturyLink. Hanifen said she never received any bills, letters or attempts to collect these “phantom charges.” When she confronted CenturyLink, they showed her an undated bill for $127.

“CenturyLink has refused to remove the negative credit reporting, and has demanded Ms. Hanifen make payment on a bill she never received,” the complaint said.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

Related stories from Idaho Statesman