Connecticut Attorney General William Tong recently sued internet service provider Altice USA, alleging that the company charged illegal junk fees and engaged in other deceptive advertising practices.  

While the case has just begun, and these are only allegations, the issues raised by the Connecticut AG are important for marketers to keep in mind.

First, the AG alleged that Altice charged consumers a monthly fee that was improperly characterized as a “Network Enhancement Fee.”  The AG argued that fee was really just a general rate increase and, therefore, Altice misrepresented the “nature and purpose” of the fee.   The AG asserted that, by advertising a price for internet service that didn't include the fee, the company was “able to advertise an artificially lower price” for the service. 

Second, the AG alleged that, in connection with Altice's Spanish-language advertising, Altice deceived consumers by including some of its disclosures in English.  

Third, the AG alleged that Altice advertised – and charged for – certain internet speeds, but didn't actually always provide internet service at those speeds.  Although the company included disclosures about this, the AG said that they were not clear and conspicuous.  For example, some of the disclosures, the AG alleged, were “provided in gray text on gray backgrounds making them nearly impossible to read and appeared on the screen only for fleeting moments.”  On the internet, the AG alleged that the company included disclosures only on the second pages of the ads “in extremely fine print.”  The AG explained, “Consumers are led to believe, therefore, that by selecting and paying for a certain speed of Internet Service, that they will receive this speed of service, when this is not always the case.” 

In announcing the lawsuit, AG Tong said, “When customers pay for Internet service, they have a right to expect promised speeds and network reliability without being nickel and dimed with junk fees.”