CenturyLink to pay $275,000 in Level 3 acquisition anti-competition case

Updated: US regulators filed a complaint against the telecoms firm over marketing practices.

CenturyLink has agreed to pay $275,000 to settle allegations in an antitrust case relating to the firm's business practices stemming from the acquisition of Level 3 Communications.

On Thursday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that CenturyLink, now known as Lumen Technologies, will pay to settle a civil contempt claim issued by the DoJ.

CenturyLink acquired Level 3 in 2016 for $34 billion in cash and stock, merging two telecoms, networking, and data center giants in the enterprise space. Lumen generated revenues of over $20 billion in 2020.

In order to preserve competition when acquisitions of this size and significance take place, US watchdogs preside heavily over how they are managed and completed. In the CenturyLink-Level 3 case, the DoJ claims that CenturyLink has been a "repeat offender" in failing to comply with court-ordered competition obligations. 

Specifically, the DoJ claims that CenturyLink flouted orders concerning anti-competitive practices, including a non-solicitation provision that barred the firm from sending marketing emails to customers that chose to move away from CenturyLink.

CenturyLink was temporarily ordered to not contact customers in the area that chose to move their business to the buyer of assets divested during the acquisition.

However, over 100 emails were still sent to individuals in the Boise City, Idaho area, according to a petition filed in a Washington DC federal court by the department's Antitrust Division. 

The DoJ asked the court to find CenturyLink in civil contempt of the order, and at the same time, also filed a proposed settlement agreement and order. In a final judgment, the non-solicitation period has also been extended for two years.

The courts must approve the order. If accepted, CenturyLink will pay $275,000 within 30 days (.PDF) to the US government, which includes the cost of the investigation. 

"The request for a finding of civil contempt is appropriate because the company violated its amended obligations immediately after the court imposed them," commented Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers of the DoJ's Antitrust Division. "When companies fail to comply with court-ordered obligations, the Antitrust Division will take action to enforce them."

Update 13.21 BST: A Lumen spokesperson told ZDNet:

"While we disagree with the Government's characterization of the alleged violations, we were pleased with the cooperative partnership of the Department of Justice in reaching a resolution that was in the best interest of all parties."

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