06.06.2008 12:00 AM
L.A. Sues Time Warner Cable, Alleges Lousy Service
The city of Los Angeles is suing Time Warner Cable, charging the region’s dominant cable provider with deceptive business practices and false advertising, leading Los Angeles customers to suffer months of cable television and Internet outages, substandard technical and customer service and improper price increases.
“We’re bringing this civil law enforcement action against Time Warner Cable because the company has broken multiple laws, and harmed countless Los Angeles consumers,” said City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. “Time Warner Cable must be held accountable for illegally deceiving and ripping off its subscribers.”
TWC, the nation’s second-largest cable provider, took over almost all the city’s cable systems and has admitted to challenges in tackling the multiple legacy systems it absorbed. But TWC boss Glenn Britt said in December the company had gotten through most of the problems.
The complaint, filed June 5 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges the company engaged in fraudulent acts and business practices resulting in consumers paying more for cable television services than they were led to believe; experiencing excessive service outages; spending hours on the telephone before reaching a customer service representative or sometimes never being able to reach a customer service representative at all; having their livelihoods affected by Internet outages and poor Internet service; and being billed for substandard service or services they had cancelled all together.
The city is asking the court to permanently prohibit the company from further violations engaging in the bad acts, and to adopt measures to prevent future acts. It also seeks $2,500 in civil penalties for each violation of California’s Unfair Competition law, plus an additional $2,500 civil penalty for each violation against one or more senior citizens or disabled persons.
Examples of false and misleading representations alleged by the city include guaranteeing customers prices would not go up after TWC’s takeover of Adelphia and Comcast systems, and the shifting to higher-priced tiers certain channels previously offered as part of basic packages, the city said. The city said complaints of cable television outages increased almost 75 percent, and TWC routinely failed to meet city standards of a maximum 30-second wait time for customer service reps over the phone. The city also cites unknowledgeable and rude representatives and late or missed technician visits.
The suit puts a damper on the cable company’s financial situation as TWC and its corporate parent, Time Warner Inc. move to split. TWC already faces a borrowing binge to pay $10.9 billion in dividends to stockholders—mostly Time Warner Inc.—as part of the deal.