THE GREAT PAY-TV RIP-OFF! Consumers Real Life Horror Stories Dealing With Bad Pay-TV Actors
Robert C. Kenny | August 19, 2015
Questions: Have you ever been so infuriated with your pay-TV company over a price hike, billing error or service failure that you felt compelled to call customer service? What was that experience like?
I will bet dollars to donuts you were more frustrated with the inept “customer service experience” from a script-reading call-taker than you were with the problem you called about in the first place. And that’s if you were actually able to speak with a live person in customer service directly!
It’s also no secret that cable and satellite TV providers represent the most disliked business sector in America. Earlier this year, for example, cable giant Mediacom tied fellow American Television Alliance (ATVA) member Time Warner Cable for dead last among America’s pay-TV companies in customer satisfaction ratings. Mediacom was dinged by consumers for exorbitantly high monthly prices, poor service quality and deplorable customer service.
Scrolling through hundreds of relatively new online consumer complaints against Mediacom, we found two recent cases that sum up the industry’s sorry customer service and untrained personnel that left customers frustrated and shaking their heads in disbelief.
In the first case, a customer in Illinois contends that he canceled service on July 30 because it was becoming too expensive and subsequently returned his remote control and set-top box to the Mediacom office near his home. When doing so, he was informed by the Mediacom representative that he would be charged an ‘extra’ $30 in addition to the early-termination fee for the “truck roll” to his home to turn off service. The customer said that no Mediacom technician showed up to his house since he cancelled service a few days ago and that he would not pay the “fake fee.”
After receiving his final bill from Mediacom and noticing the $30 service fee for the truck roll, he went to his home surveillance system and checked for video footage proving that a technician was out at the house, but there was none. When he called Mediacom customer service to contest the “fake fee” and explained that there was no evidence on his home surveillance video that a technician had been out to his residence to turn off service, the representative hung up on him.
In this case, Mediacom is trying to gouge the disgruntled customer via a “fake fee” for a phantom ‘truck roll’ to his home that never happened.
In a second case, a customer in Georgia contends that a Mediacom technician came to her house to install new cable service, but provided her with three inoperable TV remote controls after installation and couldn’t explain how the devices were supposed to work.
When the customer called Mediacom customer service to complain that none of the three remotes worked and to express frustration with the incompetence of the technician, she was informed that another technician would be out to fix the problem that same day. However, no one from Mediacom showed or called to notify her when they would be out to fix her service.
She subsequently canceled service after four straight days of “no-show” tech support from Mediacom and inoperable service. It’s yet to be seen if Mediacom will attempt to charge her hundreds of dollars in early-termination fees for canceling service prematurely.
These are just two of thousands of horror stories that Mediacom customers have experienced in the past year. And Mediacom is not alone in its abysmal treatment of consumers.
To address the decades-old abusive billing practices of pay-TV companies, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is in the midst of an investigation into the bait-and-switch billing practices of big cable. Sens. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have called for a federal inquiry into egregious pay-TV price hikes and lousy customer service. And, Sens. Markey and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) recently completed a comprehensive review of pay-TV’s “hideously vexing” rental fees for DVRs and other video set-top boxes, concluding that consumers need more protections against these exorbitantly high yearly charges that cost pay-TV subscribers $19.5 billion annually.
Clearly, Congress recognizes that the anti-consumer behavior of pay-TV companies is pervasive and has gone unchecked for far too long. Working with federal regulators, Congress is well-positioned to lead the charge on a series of industrywide regulatory reforms that’ll better protect tens of millions of pay-TV subscribers from the abusive behavior of America’s cable and satellite TV providers.
This pay-TV reform movement is justified in a marketplace where consolidation will continue to erode competition and further diminish consumers’ choices for service.
Kenny is director of public affairs for TVfreedom.org, a coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, network TV affiliate associations and others advocating for preserving the retransmission consent regime. He is a former press secretary at the FCC.