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CenturyLink, FCC reach settlement over unauthorized charges on phone bills

CenturyLink Inc. agreed to a $550,000 settlement with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission related to unauthorized third-party charges and fees on consumers' bills.

During its investigation, the FCC Enforcement Bureau reviewed complaints from CenturyLink customers who said they found unauthorized third-party charges on their bills and had difficulty getting timely refunds in some cases. The FCC said the practice, known as cramming, is unjust and unreasonable under the Communications Act.

In the settlement, CenturyLink agreed to end billing for third parties, with a few exceptions, and to implement a new process for providing refunds or credits to customers with valid complaints about unauthorized charges.

The company will also allow customers to block future third-party charges and will make available, upon customers' request, all recent billing information related to third-party charges.

The FCC said Aug. 13 that CenturyLink also committed to conducting staff training to avoid any further placement of unauthorized third-party charges on customers' bills and to filing regular compliance reports with the regulator.