Frontier accused of Internet overcharges

  • Article by: STEVE ALEXANDER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 11, 2011 - 8:11 PM

Internet customers are suing telephone company Frontier Communications, alleging it inflated their bills.

Frontier Communications was sued Tuesday by four of its Internet customers who allege the telecom company inflated their bills with unrelated or undisclosed fees.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis against the Connecticut-based telephone company, asks for unspecified damages, but seeks court authorization to become a class action suit.

Three Minnesota Internet customers and one from New York state allege fraud, breach of contract, deceptive practices, false advertising and violations of the Federal Communications Act and the Internet Tax Freedom Act.

Frontier spokeswoman Patricia Amendola declined to comment on the suit Tuesday.

Frontier is accused of including inapplicable charges on customers' Internet bills, including state and federal taxes, 911 fees and Universal Service Fund fees. While such charges are common on telephone bills, they do not apply to Internet service.

The suit also alleges that Frontier included its own high-speed Internet surcharge on customer's bills and claimed the fee was required by or authorized by a government agency.

Frontier, which has an office in Burnsville, serves several metro area suburbs, including Burnsville, Farmington, Lakeville and Rosemount, as well as other areas of the state such as International Falls.

The suit was filed by Minnesota residents Clint Rasschaert of Minnetrista, Verna Schuna of Scandia and Ed Risch of Farmington and by Pamela Schiller of Chester, N.Y.

The monthly dollar amounts of the allegedly improper charges were not large. The suit said Rasschaert's September bill from Frontier included Internet service of $54.99 plus $2.89 for the taxes, fees and surcharges.

"However, from viewing the bill alone, there is no way to tell what the basis is for the total charge," the suit said.

If the suit were to become a class action, its scope is potentially large.

E. Michelle Drake, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said Frontier has more than 270,000 telephone or Internet customers in Minnesota and 7.4 million nationwide. However, it's difficult to know how many might be covered under a class action suit, she said, because Frontier doesn't provide a breakdown of telephone and Internet customers.

Steve Alexander • 612-673-4553

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