WASHINGTON, D.C. (WYTV) — Two cable companies, including Time Warner Cable — the biggest cable TV provider in Ohio — have consistently failed to provide refunds to customers whom they knew they overcharged, according to an investigative report released Thursday by U.S. Senator Rob Portman.
The investigation was led through the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, according to a news release from Portman’s office. The investigation included a review of thousands of documents and interviews from witnesses to learn more about the consumer practices of five of the largest pay-TV providers: Comcast, Charter, Time Warner Cable, Dish Network and DirecTV.
Portman said the Subcommittee found the following:
- During the time period examined by the Subcommittee, Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications—who have just recently merged with each other—made no effort to trace equipment overcharges they identified and provide refunds to customers, instead pocketing the overcharges.
- Time Warner Cable estimates that it overbilled customers $640,000 in just the first four months of this year nationwide. It overbilled consumers nationwide by about $2 million a year for the past six years.
- During the first five months of 2016, Time Warner Cable overbilled up to 11,000 customers in Ohio, and those overcharges totaled $108,000. Time Warner Cable further estimates that, throughout last year alone, it overbilled 40,000 Ohio customers with overcharges of more than $430,000.
- When Time Warner Cable discovered the overcharges, it took erroneous charges off customers’ bills going forward but did not provide any backward-looking refunds and did not provide notice to customers so they could investigate the problem themselves.
- As a result of this investigation, Charter and Time Warner Cable have taken some initial steps to improve their practices. Time Warner performs a monthly audit to find overcharges. The company will provide an automatic one-month credit to all customers for each piece of overbilled equipment or service, and it will provide notice to overbilled customers so they can determine whether to request a credit or refund.
Portman said Time Warner Cable has not yet committed to do anything for the 40,000 Ohio customers who were overcharged last year.
“Every business has an obligation to treat its customers with respect… Instead of correcting their mistake by refunding the overcharges, their practice has been to just pocket the money,” he said. “In my view, that is a rip-off of Ohio consumers. It is wrong, and it’s unacceptable.”
Portman said he is pleased that corrective action has begin, but he will be asking for more refunds.