(Ron Lee contributing)
- Most people associate Paul Allen with his great philanthropic deeds
through his several outstanding foundations. While some might only know
Allen as one of the founders of Microsoft, still others know him as
the owner of Oregon's Trail Blazers and Seattle's Seahawks, but, many
upset consumers know him as the controlling stock owner of the country's
fourth largest cable company (according to ncta.com), Charter Communications
(NASDAQ: CHTR). Allen owns approximately 52% of the stock and controls
around 90% of the voting power as chairman of the board since purchasing
Charter in December 1998. Since June of 2007 Charter Communications
had 5,376,800 cable TV, cable high-speed internet and/or voice over
cable (phone) subscribers, and some subscribers are getting fed-up with
Charter's service outages, billing issues and poor customer service.
in many states are so enraged with their "mis-dealings" with
Charter Communications that they are posting complaints on legal web
sites like medlawplus.com in hopes to spur a class-action lawsuit and
others are filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) causing
the BBB to make this statement about Charter Communications (this comment
is regarding Charter Communications Corporate, for local ratings go
to BBB.org and search Charter Communications in your area):
on BBB files, this cable, digital TV, and high speed internet access
provider has an unsatisfactory record with the Bureau due to a pattern
of complaints and has failed to correct the underlying reason for the
complaints. Complaints concern that the firm had improper billing practices,
referred customer bills to collection agencies in error, provided poor
customer service, used misleading advertising, provided defective internet
or cable performance, used improper sales tactics or misrepresented
the actual costs of installation and service, failed to properly install
or maintain service, damaged customers' property, and failed to honor
service appointments ... The BBB processed a total of 2193 complaints
about this company in the last 36 months, our standard reporting period."
the June of ’07 article, “The Best and Worst ISPs”
written by Jeff Bertolucci of PC World, Charter Communications Cable
Internet Service (ISP) was rated as worst against other companies who
provide similar services. In fact it scored below average marks in all
but two categories.
Charter Communications sign, Grants Pass, OR.
elderly couple living in Southern Oregon, who had recently added Charter's
Phone service to their subscription, had their service disconnected
for "line upgrades" two days before Thanksgiving. According
to the grandson of the couple who spoke with the US~Observer on the
condition of anonymity, Charter had told his grandparents that their
service would be back on the next day, but when it wasn't, the couple
contacted the company through someone else's phone service and they
were told their service wouldn't be on until after the holiday weekend.
The grandson was concerned because the Charter Phone service was his
grandparents only way to get in touch with family members and emergency
services should anything happen. The grandson also stated that he has
had issues with his Charter Communications provided services saying,
"If you sign-up for a special promotion, they don't indicate that
there will be any increase in price. You just have to pay it when you
get the bill, or your service will be shut off." In a conversation
with the grandson following the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, his grandparents’
service had been reconnected.
Wikipedia search on Charter Communications resulted in a page found
with this history about the company:
Communications incorporated in Delaware in 1993. Through a series of
acquisitions as well as internally financed growth, the company served
one million customers in 1998, 3.9 million in 1999, and 6.8 million
was involved in an accounting fraud in 2000/2001 (relating to the inflation
of revenue and operating cash flow and cable subscriber numbers) for
which four former executives were indicated in 2005. The company had
been under financial pressure following a series of acquisitions; its
stock peaked at $27.75 per share in November 1999, before falling to
under $1 in 2002.
On March 22,
2006, Charter announced that it will sell cable systems serving approximately
43,000 customers in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah to Orange
Broadband Holding Company.
also sell cable systems in West Virginia and Virginia to Cebridge Connections
(now known as Suddenlink Communications) and cable systems in Kentucky
and Illinois to New Wave Communications.
In 2006, Charter
accelerated sales of cable telephone services using Broadband Telephony
technology (or VoIP). Charter suggests a battery backup to reduce the
risk of being without phone service in the event main power is lost.
representatives are reported to recommend a traditional plain-old telephone
system (POTS) access line for use with medical devices.”
a corporate financial note, in a story written by Rich Duprey titled
"The Chatter About Charter" which
was published in August 2007 on the Motley Fool (www.fool.com),
Duprey asserts that Charter has "nearly $20 billion of debt that
it can't service, $81 million in cash, trailing revenue of $5.7 billion,
and losses of more than $1.2 billion over the past 12 months."
to some Charter subscribers this could be one of the reasons for their
outrageous bills which are received after they have been "sold"
by Charter personnel on upgrading their current level of subscription.
They maintain Charter offers promotional rates for upgraded or new services
and then doesn't make good on the promotions. In one case, a Southern
Oregon subscriber upgraded his service only to find out later by Charter
representatives that the promotion was never entered into their system
and he was forced to pay an exorbitant bill. According to the subscriber,
Ron Lee (contributing writer of this story) Charter dealt with the situation
by crediting his account and ensuring that his level of service was
what he wanted, but this only occurred after Charter received notice
that Lee was a member of the press and was going to be writing an article
regarding their dissatisfied customers. Lee stated on his Charter customer
service experience, "When I was just a customer I couldn't get
any help and was met with a constant run-around. At one point I was
chatting on-line with one of their customer service reps on their web
site and I asked for a supervisor's direct phone number. They said that
they couldn't give out that information over the chat function for the
sake of privacy. I found this odd as it was okay for me to submit a
payment through this chat function divulging my personal information,
but they couldn't give me a phone number? It was soon after I responded
with that exact question to the rep that my chat session was terminated."
stated that this was hardly the first time he had contacted customer
service regarding his Charter account. "I have had many conversations
with customer service, especially regarding the outages I was continually
experiencing. I was being told that the problems were for my benefit,
because Charter was upgrading their system to make way for phone services
and also doing routine maintenance. I explained that I wouldn't be upgrading
to their phone service, because if they couldn't provide the service
I was paying for, why would I add another? Interestingly, the representative,
who I recorded under Oregon one-party consent recording laws, admitted
that she thought Charter was going to lose all of their Oregon customer's
because of outages and service interruptions. She said, and I quote,
'Oregon. Ha, ha, ha (laughing). Oh, poor people, Oregon. Oregon
has had several, several, several issues with maintenance due to the
fact that we are launching telephone in that area, and so the maintenance
that is going on is us moving your head in from one place to another
and splicing in new, um, (something said here) lines and things like
that. All this stuff means nothing to you of course, but it is why your
services are frequently down. ... Medford
got hit so hard with maintenance that I thought for sure that all of
Oregon was going leave Charter. We had a lot of irate customers.'
the recording of the Charter representative, it is stated, "The
poor services you are receiving now is, uh, what is, uh, it's, it's
supposed to and and it's happening to, in fact, better the service believe
it or not, even though I know you don't see it that way. And
I know it's extremely frustrating when you pay for a service and you
expect it to work the way we say it would, then it doesn't work that
asked if the representative knew if consumers were supposed to be notified
of maintenance she gave this response, "Here's another
thing that is probably going to make you have a small little coronary.
That little yellow paper or that little pink slip that you signed when
you first accepted Charter services, in the really fine print that no
one ever never reads, we included, it says that from time-to-time services
will go down due to maintenance and you, you are aware of this fact,
um, by signing that paper ... Sorta, Kinda we tell you that we informed
you that it may happen, um, but we kind of leave it to you to read those
itty-bitty words with a magnifying glass."
a conversation with a Charter's escalation officer and a VP of communications
where Lee informed them of their representative’s statements regarding
the fine print they both said that Charter doesn't have contracts, and
that the only thing Lee could have possibly signed was an initial work
order. They also maintain that they are very concerned about the customer
experience, but in Lee's opinion they are more concerned with the appearance
of good customer service than actually providing it. Lee said about
correspondence he received from one of the executives, "I got an
e-mail saying that they had looked into service issues in my area and
that customers with similar services had minimal trouble calls. It went
on to say that many had none reported in the past five years. I found
that to be very interesting. As part of my research I went around my
area asking about their Charter experiences. I found the comments
to be predominantly negative toward Charter. This was backed up by ratings
both locally and on a corporate level through the BBB where every Charter
franchise that I looked at had an unsatisfactory rating and many customers
with whom they hadn't even responded to."
to Paul Walter of NewsWithViews.com,
even Charter's corporate billing has issues. "We got a bill from
Charter for commercials we ran and we paid it right away. Then all of
a sudden we get another bill for the same thing!" Walter explained.
He went on to say that he had to contact Charter to remedy the situation.
complaints aren't just local to Oregon; they are nationwide in every
market where Charter is the cable provider. For instance, complaints
like those on the Class Action bulletin board titled "Charter Billing
Practices" on the medlawplus.com
web site include 42 posts since October 1, 2007 and include the following:
Back in September
we added telephone to our current cable and internet services and the
bundle was supposed to upgrade us to high speed internet, add HBO and
Cinemax and with the telephone be a total of $119.97 per month plus
taxes. It was going to add $16 to my current charges which was about
$50 a month cheaper than having AT&T as our phone company. HOWEVER,
we have yet to receive a bill for $119.97. I have been paying $125 a
month which is close to what it should be with taxes, however now I
have a past due bill around $200 with service charges. I have called,
emailed and even spoke with a customer representative who told me that
the reason my bill is $139.97 per month plus applicable fees is because
I have HBO and Cinemax and some Movie View thing on my cable. I told
her that it was part of the "Package" and she told me I needed
to prove it by taking the original promotion card I received in the
mail in early Sept. to my local office. Hello.... I don't have the original
promotion card anymore. Why would I keep it?! So, from what I can gather,
I'm stuck with a larger bill until "I can prove" what "their"
promotion was. What a bunch of B.S.
I signed up
for an online special for $14.99 for 5 meg for six months. When my bill
came it was about $130! $65 for an overdue bill that I never received
and another $65 for the current month! (These are approximate numbers
because I do not have the bill in front of me right now.) Keep in mind,
I signed up for a $14.99 special and this was the first bill Charter
sent me so I am not sure how they can claim I was delinquent on a prior
bill when there was no prior bill! Of course I called customer service
and these people actually had the nerve to try and sell me other products
while I was complaining. I was transferred to several different people
who were of no help! Finally, an alleged supervisor got on the phone
and told me that they never had a $14.99 5 meg special. I know what
I signed up for because I did a lot research before I purchased the
internet service. I spoke with a rep on the phone and did an online
chat with two reps. They made me look like I was crazy because they
denied ever having a $14.99 deal. However, the supervisor did try to
sell me the same internet deal for $29.99. The nerves of these people,
and why did they keep trying to sell me a bundle? Here I was, a pissed-off
customer, and they were still trying to sell me stuff. Anyway, I have
the email confirmation from my original order stating I would only be
paying $20/month...14.99 for internet and $5 to rent the cable modem.
I can't wait to go show them the email...I'm sure they'll make another
excuse when I show it to them. Does anyone know of any class action
lawsuit against them? After reading all of the comments on here, I am
more mad. I think they are deliberately trying to rip people off.
is I made a payment online 11/5 for my Charter bill due 11/1. I received
a confirmation number and receipt from Charter for the payment of $183.
A couple of
days later I checked my bank account to see if the payment cleared the
bank and found that TWO payments of $183 ($366 total) had been taken
from my bank account. I went back online to check my charter account
activity to see if I'd accidentally sent two payments by mistake. The
activity log showed only ONE payment confirmation for $183...BUT...it
showed Charter received $366.
I called Charter
last week and the phone rep said he'd send a refund form to our local
office and someone would call.
no call this week I called 888-438-2427 again and was told they would
re-submit a refund request but it would take 6-8 weeks to get my money
back. When I asked to talk to a supervisor I was put on hold for about
15 minutes and never did get to talk with a supervisor.
time I was on hold I logged onto Charter's online chat for assistance
was only told to call 888-438-2427. When I asked for a phone number
of someone who could actually help my session got terminated.
I called the
phone number again and got a different rep who was actually sympathetic
but could offer no further assistance than to re-submit the refund request.
hit of my bank account is Charter's mistake. There's no record I made
two payments, even the Charter reps acknowledge that fact.
The reps tried
to placate me by saying the extra payment was credited to my account.
BUT, I needed that money to make other payments this month.
I don't understand
how Charter can spend 5 seconds dinging my bank account but I have to
wait 6-8 weeks to get it back.
Oh my gosh
I cannot believe that there are so many people that have had the same
problem as I have. I too got my first bill to be charged over 250 dollars
for long distance I had since 9/14/07 and on 9/27/07 I got a bill and
although everyone I talk to assures me they will help me I get transferred
they have taken my number twice for someone to call me within 24 hrs
and all of it are lies and now my bill just keeps growing and growing
what will make them stop?
I have been
a Charter customer for 10+ years without any problems, so when the offer
for phone/internet/cable tv for $89.97/mo for 12 months came around,
I signed up. This was the beginning of the end.
Prior to this,
the only issue I had was with the internet dropping the connection,
but this cleared up on its own earlier this year.
When the first
bill arrived after the bundle was installed, I was shocked to see it
was $186.23. I realized that there would be some prorated charges in
there, but this was way out of line. Upon inspection of the bill, I
discovered that I was being charged $39.99 for 384k internet as well
as $29.99 for 3M service. There was also a charge for a Modem lease,
which I have owned for several years. A phone call to Charter seemed
to clear things up for the most part, but the next bill was still about
$5.00 over the bundle price that I signed up for. Another call to Charter
again seemed to take care of this, but again the next bill was about
$8.00 too high. Another call to Charter again seemed to do the job again,
but the next bill would tell the story.
Half way through
the next billing cycle, I called to cancel the 3 month free preview
of the premium channels (before the 3 months was up). Somehow, this
turned everything upside down again and the August bill was about $25.00
over the bundle price. Again, another phone call to charter (which I
recorded) seemed to leave everything in order after going over and over
it again with them.
Well, I am
on Autopay, and have been for several years. When the due date of the
August bill came around, I started monitoring my checking account. I
became concerned when 4 days had passed and Charter's withdrawal had
not shown up. Again, another call to Charter, and they assured me that
everything was in order and it just hadn't shown up yet. Six days later,
I again checked my account and was horrified to find that they had taken
$216.63 out of my account. An immediate call to Charter got me no clear
explanation, so I asked to speak with a supervisor. After being put
on hold, the line went dead for 30 minutes, after which I hung up.
The next day,
I went to see if my September bill was available online yet, and it
was. What I discovered there was a Past Due notice that said the August
amount was past due and the September bill was due immediately along
with the August portion. I again called Charter and explained that I
was on Autopay, and asked how this could happen. After arguing several
minutes back and forth about this, and explaining to them that this
is not my fault, I finally told them to GET THEIR EQUIPMENT OUT OF MY
I am done dealing
with a company that has no clue what they are doing. I then went and
filled out a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I can't believe
they took September's bill out of my account without even notifying
me! As I write this 3 days later, I still do not have the paper copy
of the September bill. I will NEVER deal with this company again.
Communications maintains its commitment to its customers stating on
their web site, www.charter.com:
strengthen our customer relationships, Charter continually invests in
customer care and service capabilities, striving every day to deliver
high-quality, value-added services, support, and a quality customer
experience. We provide convenience and compelling value through our
triple-play bundle of cable television, high-speed Internet, and telephone
services, remaining constantly focused on our mission of providing value
to our customers.”
Lee is satisfied with the final outcome to his issues, he maintains
his opinion that the solution was only due to his status as a journalist.
said of his research into Charter, "Obviously there are a lot of
people out there who have serious issues with Charter Communications,
and many are making what could be considered accusations of criminal
conduct against the company. You only have to do an on-line search to
a solution Lee said, "Hopefully Charter can turn things around
before there is another class-action suit filed or the Attorney General
gets involved. But, I hope Mr. Allen, who I have a great deal of respect
for, will hear just how hurt so many feel by a company he is a part
of that he will change Charter for the better. Only time will tell.
Until then, a great many people will continue to feel they are stuck
with their Charter experience."
information on cable regulations go to www.fcc.gov.
wish to contact Charter directly:
Telephone: (636) 207-5100
Fax: (636) 230-7034
can e-mail the Charter Communications President & CEO, Neil Smit,
directly at: Neil.Smit@chartercom.com.