CenturyLink left users with no service for two months, then billed them $239

CenturyLink left users with no service for two months, then billed them $239
Illustration of the CenturyLink logo over a piece of damaged network equipment

Aurich Lawson | Getty Images

Telecom provider CenturyLink left a couple in Oregon without landline phone service for two months, then sent a bill for $239.

CenturyLink customer Kirstin Appel and her husband live in Banks, a city with fewer than 2,000 residents in Oregon’s Tualatin Valley. They keep a landline for emergencies because their only Internet service is satellite, and cellular service in the area is poor. Appel said they pay $41 a month for CenturyLink phone service.

CenturyLink phone service became spotty and intermittent around January 20 when winter storms hit the area and then went out completely on January 27, Appel told us. She contacted Ars nearly two months after the outage began, desperate for a fix because her various chats with CenturyLink customer service led nowhere.

The service was only fixed after Ars contacted CenturyLink, and Appel had to spend hours chatting with the company’s support to get bill credits. The surprise $239 bill had to do with phantom 411 calls made from her number during the outage (more on that later in this article).

“I’ve chatted with them multiple times and had two canceled repair tickets since then,” Appel told us in late March when her service was still out. She said that customer service reps provided conflicting information on the status of the outage.

“I keep hearing different stories from representatives about how there is a widespread outage in my area—yet no outages are showing up on any outage map that I can find,” Appel told us at the time. “One representative even told me that the outage was fixed, scheduled a tech to come out, and then that ticket was canceled without my knowledge. I reached out to CenturyLink today via chat, and they informed me that the outage is still affecting my area.”

Not our first CenturyLink horror story

If this sounds familiar, you may have read our February 2024 article about CenturyLink leaving Oregon customers without Internet service for 39 days. In yet another case we wrote about last year, CenturyLink left 86-year-old Minnesota resident Helen Marie Plourde without home Internet and phone service for over a month. In both of those instances, CenturyLink only fixed the service after we emailed the company’s public relations department.

We contacted CenturyLink about Appel’s case on the afternoon of March 26, and the company fixed her phone service on March 27. CenturyLink told us at the time that it was “trying to get all customers back online as soon as possible.”

A CenturyLink technician who fixed the service left a message for Appel saying that a line serving her house had nearly been severed. It’s unclear why it took CenturyLink two months to fix the line or how much longer it would have taken if the company never received a message from a media outlet.

Repairs promised but not delivered

Appel provided us with transcripts of chats she had with CenturyLink customer support. On March 6, an agent told her the estimated time for a restoration was 8 pm on March 7.

In a subsequent chat on March 9, one company rep told her that “there is no outage reported.” She was transferred to another agent who informed her that there was an outage but that “the outage was restored early this morning.”

“I still have no dial tone,” Appel responded to the agent. The agent then wrote, “I understand, I have run a line analysis on your line and a dispatch is recommended to fix the issue.”

The agent scheduled an appointment for March 19, but that date passed without a repair. In another chat with customer support on March 20, Appel wrote, “I had a technician scheduled to come out yesterday. No one arrived and I got no notifications of an appointment change or cancellation. My phone line is dead—there is no dial tone.”

The agent replied, “I can see you are facing the issue with phone line. I will certainly check and help you.” About six minutes later, the agent confirmed that a “service outage is going on in your area” and said it would be fixed on March 22.

Of course, the fix didn’t happen until March 27. Before Ars got involved, CenturyLink seemed to have “no intent to restore my service, or at least were not in any great hurry,” Appel said.

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