Why Did CenturyLink Backpedal on a Price Quote?

George Antoun is quoted a monthly rate of $59 for his Internet and phone service. So why is CenturyLink billing him $76? And can he get a price adjustment?

Question: I recently contacted CenturyLink to get a price quote for phone and Internet service. The transaction was conducted via online chat, and I saved a copy of it.

I was very clear that I wanted to know the total bill, including all taxes and fees. About halfway through the chat, the CenturyLink representative said, "Keep in mind that all prices I quote you during the course of this conversation do not include taxes, fees, and regulatory assessments."

I told her that the whole reason I'm going through the chat was to figure out what the taxes and fees were, and if that wasn’t possible, then I wanted to stop.

Her response was "I am about to tell you.” Then she said the second month's bill would be $59. The first month's bill had some one-time charges. Based on that, I signed up for service.

My bill came to $76, and when I complained, I got nowhere contacting CenturyLink. I also tried filing a complaint through the Federal Communications Commission, but I quickly realized that they wouldn’t be helpful.

I want CenturyLink to honor the $59 price I was given. Can you help? -- George Antoun, Golden, Colo.

Answer: If CenturyLink offered you a $59 price, you should have received one. And you didn’t.

I read the transcript and I’m not really sure what you were offered. Yes, the representative offered a $59-a-month-rate, but she also said, “I am not able to see what the full taxes and fees are as they depend on the city, state, and government taxes.”

The responses from the representative appeared to be largely scripted, and English may not have been the representative’s first language. It doesn’t matter. In the end, you didn’t get a price quote that specifically said “tax inclusive,” and CenturyLink raised your bill to $76.

That’s not right.

The problem was the transcript. It was slippery and imprecise, so it was hard to pin down CenturyLink. You might have appealed this to one of the CenturyLink executive contacts, and that might have shaken something loose.

I'm troubled that a company like CenturyLink could leave you with the impression you were getting a $59-a-month rate, when in fact, you weren't. But that doesn't bother me as much as the fact that any company can quote customers a rate, minus taxes. If they're so hard to add to the final rate, then why isn't CenturyLink having similar difficulties sending you a $76 bill?

Point is, it quotes you these low rates because they're low, and people say "yes" to low rates. Never mind that you can't actually get an Internet/phone package for $59 a month.

I contacted CenturyLink on your behalf. It reviewed your account and your transcript and insisted that you had been quoted the correct rate. You disagree with this decision. I disagree with it, too. I think your only recourse is to cancel your service.

Christopher Elliott specializes in solving intractable consumer problems. Contact him with your questions on his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google or sign up for his newsletter.