Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2019

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CenturyLink customers, enraged by billing error, take it out on county officials

Beyond the Sun

If your cable bill feels a little heavy this month, there’s a reason. But it has nothing to do with Clark County, even though commissioners have been fielding dozens of calls from CenturyLink customers irate over additional charges related to a county franchise fee.

“Recently, the county has been bombarded with calls from customers that are complaining that CenturyLink is back-billing for county license fees that were previously not included on the customers’ bills,” Jacqueline Holloway, head of the county’s Business Licensing department, wrote this week in an email to county administrators and commissioners.

Holloway offered an explanation of the extra charge: “In discussing this with CenturyLink we learned that, due to a computer glitch, for several months the bills did not include the county license fees and that they have been charging the under-assessments on current bills.”

Tony Timmons, a CenturyLink spokesman, said the back-billing issue affected about 7,000 customers in unincorporated Clark County — the most populous part of the county, which includes the Las Vegas Strip. CenturyLink, which offers Internet access, telephone, DirecTV and other services, is the third-largest telecommunications company in the United States, behind AT&T and Verizon.

For about eight months, those 7,000 CenturyLink customers weren’t billed for what amounts to a monthly average of $1.20 for county franchise fees. Over a year, CenturyLink pays the county about $3.5 million in franchise fees, said county spokesman Dan Kulin, adding that the fee is usually equal to about 5 percent of the company’s revenue.

Once the charges appeared on the bills this month, county commissioners started getting phone calls from irate customers. Kulin said the most any of these customers reported being back-billed was $50.

The reason commissioners were fielding calls, Holloway wrote, is because “CenturyLink staff are directing callers to complain about this issue to the commissioners’ offices. We will try to get CenturyLink to stop that.”

Timmons said CenturyLink has fixed the problem — customers will be getting billed regularly for the franchise fee — and is working to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

CenturyLink does not, however, control DirecTV billing, even though it offers that service, Timmons said.

Why does it matter? Holloway also said some customers feel they have paid DirecTV twice for a fee they should have paid once.

A spokesman from DirecTV said the company was unaware of any complaints but was going to look into it.

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