Time Warner Cable overbilled customers, report says

Two recently merged cable companies — Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications — all too often failed to refund customers they overcharged, an U.S. Senate committee investigation found.

The Senate Permanent Investigations subcommittee found the companies made no effort to trace set-top box equipment overcharges and to provide refunds to customers. “Instead, their practice has been to just pocket the past overcharges,” a report on the investigation said.

The companies “…made no effort to trace overcharges they identified and provide refunds to customers,” said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who chaired the committee with Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., in a statement.

“In my view, that is a rip-off of Ohio consumers,” Portman added.

Other findings, according to a explanation from Portman’s office:

• Time Warner Cable — the largest cable company in Ohio — estimates it overbilled customers $640,000 in the first four months of 2016 nationwide. It overbilled consumers nationwide by about $2 million a year for the past six years, the report found.

• During the first five months of 2016, Time Warner Cable overbilled up to 11,000 customers in Ohio, according to Portman’s office. 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,” Portman’s office said.

• After discovering overcharges, Time Warner Cable dealt with the issue by taking erroneous charges off customers’ bills going forward — but did not provide any “backward-looking” refunds and did not provide notice to customers about the problem.

“They just kept the money,” Portman’s statement said.

The companies have now taken initial steps to improve practices, the senator said.

But, added Portman’s office, Time Warner Cable has not committed to do anything for the 40,000 Ohio customers who were overcharged last year.

A spokesman for Time Warner Cable released a statement, saying, “In May of 2016, Charter completed its acquisition of Time Warner Cable. At just a little more than 30 days post-closing, Charter has been advised that TWC currently catches and corrects any overcharges on a monthly basis.

“We will put controls into place to catch such instances daily, as we now have installed at Charter, but that will take approximately 60‐90 days,” the statement added. “Until then, we will proactively issue a one month credit to any customer that the current monthly process reveals was overcharged.”

In a statement, Charter said it is working to address the issue.

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