Qwest ordered to set aside $30 million for potential refunds
By Andy Vuong
March 11, 2011
A district judge
Thursday ordered Qwest to set aside $30 million to cover
potential refunds for up to 1 million
The total refunds could exceed $100 million by the time Qwest's appeals are exhausted and the case is remanded to regulators for official calculations, according to the Colorado Office of Consumer Counsel. That process could take up to three years, the consumer office said, meaning potential refunds of about $100 each could be issued in late 2013.
In January, Denver District Judge Herbert Stern overturned a 2009 decision by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that authorized Qwest to raise monthly rates on basic residential phone service.
Qwest has filed a notice of intent to appeal Stern's January ruling to the state Supreme Court and has argued that bond should be waived because a refund amount has not been calculated.
In mandating $30 million bond — the current potential refund amount through February based on estimates by the consumer office — Stern said the company's pending merger with CenturyLink "presents uncertainty as to the expediency of processing refunds to Qwest customers should Qwest's appeal be unsuccessful."
"Qwest shall obtain a bond in the amount of $30 million or place said amount in an interest-bearing escrow account," Stern wrote in Thursday's order.
A Qwest financial analyst estimated that any potential refund would be less than $10 million, according to court documents. Stern said the company provided "no data or information" as to how that figure was reached.
Stern notes that the consumer office's $30 million estimate is "fair and accurately reflects the data already in the record."
A Qwest spokeswoman said the company doesn't comment on pending litigation.