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Charter and Time Warner Cable overcharged customers at least $7.2 mn per year: report

24 June 2016

Charter and its new subsidiary Time Warner Cable (TWC) has been charged with overcharging customers at least $7.2 million per year for equipment and service, according to a US Senate investigation.

Time Warner Cable over-billed customers nationwide an estimated $639,948 between January and April of this year, which worked out to a yearly total of $1,919,844. Charter Communications, meanwhile, "informed the [Senate's investigative] Subcommittee that it over-billed customers by at least $442,691 per month," the report said. That worked out to overcharges of at least $5,312,292 per year and when added to Time Warner Cable's overcharges, that was $7.2 million that customers paid in erroneous charges over and above the already high prices of cable TV.

The Charter/Time Warner Cable billing problems are especially severe as neither company had been issuing automatic refunds or credits to overcharged customers, according to the senate report. Over the six-and-a-half-year time period examined by the subcommittee,

"Time Warner Cable and Charter made no effort to trace equipment overcharges to their origin unless customers specifically asked them to and did not provide notice or refunds to customers," the report said. "Time Warner Cable and Charter did not automatically refund or credit customers for equipment overcharges they discovered. By contrast, Comcast and DirecTV provided full refunds to overcharged customers, and Dish's sophisticated billing system is designed to prevent these types of issues from occurring in the first instance."

Meanwhile, according to commentators, the report published Thursday by senators Rob Portman (Repulican-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (Democrat-Missouri), reflected the struggle that many consumers faced when trying to talk to their TV company. It shed light on some of the corporate incentives that drove the firms and it found that one provider alone, Time Warner Cable, was expected to overcharge its customers this year to the tune of $2 million. TWC had already this year, collected nearly $640,000 in unnecessary fees.

"The company just kept the money," said Portman in a Senate hearing Thursday accompanying the report. "In my view, that's a ripoff."'

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