“Time Warner must be held accountable for its promises.”
According to the soon-to-be-filed complaint, the City of Los Angeles says Time Warner made false and misleading statements to subscribers regarding its quality of service, violating state laws and the terms of the franchise agreement it worked out with the city. Subscribers spend time waiting in agonizingly long hold queues, the city says, and Time Warner’s technicians subjected subscribers to excessive repair work delays. Parts of the agreement mandated that Time Warner customer service representatives answer subscribers’ calls “within 30 seconds,” and repair service interruptions within 24 hours of notification.
The city says it will file its suit in a Los Angeles County Superior Court. Time Warner Cable provided no immediate comment.
Officials in the city of Costa Mesa, California – less than an hour’s drive south of Los Angeles’ – are mulling similar plans in light of Los Angeles’ announcement.
“I requested a copy of the city of Los Angeles’ filing so that I can assess if we need to pursue action of our own,” said Costa Mesa City Attorney Kimberley Hall Barlow.
Los Angeles officials say that Time Warner could pay “tens of millions of dollars” in fines if courts rule against it.
Time Warner Cable is the exclusive cable provider for a number of Southern California markets, including the aforementioned Costa Mesa. While there exists competition in Los Angeles, Time Warner Cable remains the dominant provider after it acquired the bankrupted Adelphia Communications with fellow provider Comcast in 2006, and arranged for a complex franchise switch that allowed the two to dominate separate markets.
The Los Angeles Times notes that the Adelphia transition was difficult due to a need to upgrade and merge with Adelphia’s aging infrastructure, affecting nearly 500,000 subscribers.
Los Angeles’ lawsuit specifically focuses on service issues starting during fall 2006 and ending in spring of 2007, citing advertising literature that gave subscribers the impression that pricing would remain the same. One brochure promised customers that Time Warner would fix service interruptions “fast,” when instead technicians would consistently show up for appointments late.
In the end, however, the city is angry with Time Warner’s lousy service overall. The company’s cable and internet service “was so intermittent and inferior in quality that it was not much better than no service at all,” says the suit.
Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes recently announced plans to jettison Time Warner Cable, spinning it off into an independent company in order to raise Time Warner’s sagging stock price. The company is also experimenting with a metered internet service model, opening test markets with a 40 GB cap in Texas.