Scammy phone company Centurylink: "No one can sue us because we don't have any customers"

Centurylink is a giant, scammy telco notorious for larding its customers' bills with fraudulent charges, and instructing its customer service reps to do everything possible not to waive those charges; they also open fake accounts in their customers' names, a la Wells Fargo, and then rack up charges against them.

Naturally, they're getting sued; their customers have banded together in a class action suit. Centurylink has a great defense for this: it claims that these poor saps don't actually do business with Centurylink, they do business with a bunch of shell company subsidiaries that no one has ever heard of. According to Centurylink, it has zero customers.

Moreover, Centurylink says that its shell companies have already made all the angry people it stole from agree to "broad, all-compassing arbitration, and class-action waiver clauses in their service contracts," so they can't sue Centurylink or its subsidiaries.

It gets better! Centurylink claims that this binding arbitration and class-action waiver also extends to the accounts that it fraudulently opened in its customers' names — that when it forged their consent to open new accounts, it also forged their consent not to sue them over it, and that this is somehow binding (Wells Fargo also took this position).

Centurylink's victims say it's all bullshit. They didn't agree to binding arbitration, they didn't do business with Centurylink's disposable shell-companies, and forging their signature on a contract does not bind them to the contract's terms.

"The arbitration clauses they're trying to enforce post-date the litigation," he said. CenturyLink frequently offered service to customers without contracts, often via door-to-door salespeople who signed up elderly customers, he said. If the customers didn't have a contract, they couldn't have agreed to an arbitration clause, he said.

The case also includes allegations that CenturyLink created fake accounts in order to overcharge customers. Since customers never signed contracts for those fake accounts, they couldn't have agreed to arbitration in those instances, Meiselas said. "It logically follows that you didn't sign a contract for something you didn't contract for in the first place," he said.

CenturyLink fights billing-fraud lawsuit by claiming that it has no customers [Jon Brodkin/Ars Technica]