Another city considers suing Time Warner Cable over service

Costa Mesa, Calif., is considering suing Time Warner Cable for what the city says is poor service.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

The city of Los Angeles' lawsuit against Time Warner Cable has prompted a neighboring community to look at suing the cable provider.

Now the city of Costa Mesa, Calif., is also considering suing Time Warner, claiming that its residents have gotten poor service, too. Complaints had gotten so out of hand, that earlier this year the city council called a public hearing to question a Time Warner representative about the issue.

Even though service has improved over the past few months, the city's attorney said that residents have experienced similar issues as those outlined in the Los Angeles complaint, according to the Daily Pilot, the local newspaper's Web site.

Late last week, the city attorney for Los Angeles filed a suit against Time Warner alleging the company broke multiple laws by providing poor service to its citizens. The city is seeking to collect tens of millions of dollars in fines.

The suit is linked to problems Time Warner experienced after it took over cable systems from bankrupt cable operator Adelphia. Time Warner also picked up some systems through a swap with Comcast, its co-buyer in the Adelphia transaction.

Time Warner increased its subscribers in the Los Angeles region from 350,000 to 1.9 million literally overnight. The company was overwhelmed as it migrated e-mail accounts, resolved billing issues, and transitioned other video and broadband systems to its own systems. The result was allegedly poor service and a doubling in complaints.

Specifically, the suit alleges the company failed to live up to its part of the franchise cable agreement, which requires the company to answer subscribers' calls within 30 seconds and begin repairs of service interruptions within 24 hours of notification in 90 percent of its service calls. The suit claims that less than 60 percent of calls for service were answered on time and that broadband and TV "was so intermittent and inferior in quality that it was not much better than no service at all."

Time Warner says that it's working to improve customer service in the region, but it disagrees with the suit's allegations.

"We're proud of the service we provide to the L.A. area," a spokesman wrote in an e-mail. "We've made great strides in customer service, evidenced by the fact that call volumes are now lower than pre-acquisition levels, despite being apporximately five times larger."

Improving customer service is a big deal for cable operators, especially as they face increased competition from phone companies. Time Warner is one of many companies with several initiatives in the works to improve its service. But will it be too late? Many customers are already ditching Time Warner in the L.A. area and switching to satellite providers. AT&T also provides its U-verse TV and broadband service in parts of the area, which could give some residents another choice.