Monday, January 14, 2013

Should I sue Time Warner Cable for what is basically theft?

Should I sue Time Warner Cable for what is basically theft?

UPDATE: I did not sue TWC, and regrettably won't be. We wish you the best in your struggles with TWC.

If you need other legal assistance in one of our states, please don't hesitate to contact us.

I expect to get what I pay for. I expect others, including companies, to perform the services they promise to perform. Time Warner Cable is a joke, one of, if not the, worst large company I have dealt with in my 41 years on this Earth. Personally, I’ve never sued anyone, although I’m an attorney. I’m contemplating suing TWC and I’m curious as to what others think about this. It’s not as if this is the first time TWC has ripped its customers or shareholders off.

In fact, TWC has been rated as the second most hated company in the USA!  (Bank of America on the “rise” on that list).

I’ll very, very briefly summarize what I’ve gone through with TWC (and this is only in the last 18 months, putting aside previous pathetic behavior). This is based on memory – I do have written notes, but I’m not writing this as a legal brief – yet!

In June, 2011 we bought a home here in Charlotte. We scheduled transfer of our Time Warner Cable phone, internet, TV service to the new home. I confirmed that TWC had my cell phone number (despite having updated it at least twice in the past 2 years, they had a very old # on file.) TWC won’t show up for the appointment if you don’t answer your phone when they call in advance of the appointment – I laughingly reminded the TWC rep. to call my cell phone, not the home phone. TWC never showed up, but I enjoyed waiting for hours for them to do so. When I asked why they didn’t show, I was first told they showed up but I wasn’t there – a complete lie, I was there all day and was often in the front yard. Next I was told, by the very same person, that they didn’t show up but rather they called but I didn’t answer . .. TWC confirmed it called the home phone - the TWC phone line, the one that wasn’t even working at the time because they were in the middle of moving it over to the new home! Yes, they called their own number that they were supposed to be reinstalling.

My new neighbors were already (politely) laughing at me: “Wait, you’re doing what? Getting Time Warner in this neighborhood? Good luck, you’ll need it.”

I ended up having to schedule 7 appointments with TWC to get everything up and running. This included twice when Time Warner Cable completely failed to show up, twice when they showed up but said they couldn’t finish for various reasons (including “it’s too hot”), and once when the tech implied that it was somehow my fault for not explaining to TWC what needed to be done (this, after TWC had been to the house 3 times), asked me details about how to install everything, and then suggested I pay someone to come on the weekend to finish up and do the work that TWC would otherwise charge me an arm and a leg for.

I filed a Better Business Bureau complaint. After much effort on my part, TWC made temporary improvements with regard to our service and refunded part of what we had paid.

Fast forward a few months. Some TV stations don’t work at all at times. Some of them freeze. At some point, TWC comes out again, and the guy agrees that we have a weak signal. Gee, ya think?

Fast forward a few more months. The upstairs digital box doesn’t work at all, our secondary TV is now totally out of commission. Some channels downstairs don’t work at all, some freeze. For a short time period, the phone didn’t work at all.

Now, mind you, while I have wasted hour after hour after hour and while I have been paying our bill, we have been getting less than full service. Interesting . . . if we pay only part of our bill, we get the entire service shut off, but Time Warner Cable can get away with demanding full payment while only providing part of the services paid for? You see, in some circumstances, TWC, that is referred to as “theft” or “fraud”.

We also spent about an hour trying to fix our access to our online account. We were told it was corrected, but then a few weeks later experienced the exact same problem and had to again spend more time trying to get this corrected. We were told that they had made the changes and updated the online account and account access.  A few days later, we discovered we could not log in – TWC rep. then informed us the previous two TWC reps. had not actually made the changes/corrections we were told had been made. TWC’s online account system is very inefficient . . . a cynical person might wonder if they intend it to be that way, to make it difficult for customers to access their information online and thus increase the amount of instances in which dissatisfied customers “give up” and just leave the status quo as is. I mean, this is a tech based company – why is their online access and website set up in such a non-customer-friendly way?

If our lives weren’t so busy (I’m running a multi-state law firm, my wife works hard as well, we have a baby, etc.), I would have switched from TWC earlier in time. In the summer of 2012 I started to look into alternatives.

I wanted to know what the cost would be to just use TWC for unlimited nationwide phone (not internet, not TV).  On July 31, 2012, this is what I asked TWC, repeatedly. I was very careful to explain what I wanted and what I was asking for, and I explained it the same way each time, to each TWC rep. I communicated with. The individual who finally (the third time I contacted TWC about this) corrected our online account problem said she could not assist with any pricing, and transferred me to “Joan E”.

I wanted to know who much it would cost me to have unlimited nationwide calling phone service only with TWC (no internet, no TV). “Joan E.” gave me different answers to this very, very simple question within the same online chat . . .after an hour total online, Joan E of Time Warner Cable told me that I would need to drive to a TWC office to get more information.

I then called TWC.  The TWC rep. gave me two different answers, neither of which matched what “Joan E” had told me during the online chat.

I then called TWC back a few minutes later to see if I could get a real answer to the very, very complicated question of “How much would it cost me to have only phone service, with unlimited nationwide calling included, via TWC?” I was told by the TWC telephone customer service and sales that I had to go online to get pricing for phone service.

I went online to chat again and further search for this Holy Grail – the price of TWC phone service! I chatted online with “Rudy”. Rudy of TWC online customer service could not verify any of the previous prices I was given or even give me a price, but told me he would transfer me to someone who definitely could resolve this issue.

I was transferred to “Jake”. Jake of TWC’s online customer service was unable to answer the question of how much it would cost me to have phone service only and wanted to transfer me to someone else. Awesomely, I was transferred back to Rudy!

I told Rudy I wanted a supervisor and I wanted answers, or I was filing (another) BBB complaint. He told me he was transferring me to a supervisor, but then said he was transferring me to just another analyst.

I was transferred to “Don”. I summarized this whole situation for Don, who wanted to transfer me back to sales!  (basically, the “customer service” department and the “sales” department kept passing me back and forth).

On July 31, 2012, I spent almost 3 hours communicating with Time Warner Cable in an attempt to get an answer to the question of “How much would it cost me to have only phone service, with unlimited nationwide calling included, via TWC?”  I communicated with 7 TWC reps. and was transferred 7 times. 5 of the reps. were unable or unwilling to give me any pricing information at all, and the other 2 reps., between them, gave me 4 different answers to the same question.

More recently we began to move forward with finally removing the blight that it is TWC from our lives. A few weeks ago, TWC rep. told me that TWC required 5 days’ advance notice to cancel services. To confirm, I asked “So if I told you today, Monday, to disconnect my services immediately, the earliest you’d do it is Saturday?” The Time Warner Cable rep. confirmed this. As part of the disconnect process, TWC (appropriately) has their reps. attempt customer retention, as studies consistently show it’s much more cost-efficient for companies to give existing customers a break than to have to try to earn new customers; in other words, it’s cheaper to give a current customer a break versus lose an existing customer and have to replace him/her with a new one.  Out of curiosity, I asked what the charge would be for internet only . . the “great deal” I was offered cost more than what TWC publicly offers to brand new customers. Oh. Good job, TWC. No thanks.

We had decided to replace TWC with ATT. I decided to wait until ATT was installed and running before putting in a disconnect order with TWC. Yesterday, we switched to ATT for TV and internet (we switched away from TWC for phone a few months ago). ATT was on time, the first time. They were professional. They appeared to know what they were doing. What they told me made sense. I was so, so happy to take all that TWC junk and put it by the front door (indoors, I’m too rational to have thrown it outside, despite the temptation) for pick-up.

Last night, I called TWC to disconnect. After going through the song and dance about whether I will reconsider, I was put on hold – “I’ll be right back to confirm the cancellation.” I waited. I took out the garbage. I cleaned up the baby’s toys. I talked to my mother in law. I ordered a pizza. I drove to pick the pizza up. Still on hold! After 32 minutes, I was disconnected from TWC, still sitting on hold, still without confirmation that the cancel order was confirmed. Interestingly, 15 minutes before the disconnect, while I was on hold, I got an email saying I had an appointment with TWC this week. If the email is intended to confirm disconnection of servicers (it doesn’t confirm this) , why was I still on hold 15 minutes after the disconnect order was perhaps placed?!

I called back a second time to try to confirm the disconnect order. After going through all the preliminary stuff and waiting on hold, I got to a human being, allegedly in Texas. She said she was putting in the cancellation order immediately .  . . but what about the 5 day waiting period, which her colleague told me about 2 weeks earlier? This TWC rep. knew nothing about that. I just started laughing, perhaps a little crazily. The rep. wanted me to drive the equipment back to a TWC office Monday, but said a tech was coming to the house this Tuesday . . . why would I take an hour out of my day and spend gas money to take the equipment back Monday if a TWC rep. was coming to my house Tuesday? She had no good answer. Ok, well what time range will the tech be at the house Tuesday? “There is no time range.” HUH?  What do you mean no time range? No 8 – 12? No 1-5? No 1 p.m. to midnight at least? I asked her “You do this all day, so you tell me – do people actually agree to just sit in their house all day and night, stay home from work, etc., just to give TWC the boxes back?”  I was wondering if refusing to give even a time range was TWC’s way of making it so difficult that people would just drive the boxes back to the TWC offices.

This discussion went on for a while, then finally I said “Can I mail the equipment back?” The answer was “Yes.”

By this time, I was back at the house with pizza and groceries, and my wife and mother in law were eating pizza and laughing at me while I was, of course, still on / on again with TWC, as I had been an hour earlier when we decided to order pizza.  We agreed that the services were being disconnected immediately. I asked for the mailing address, and the TWC rep. had to put me on hold to get it. I was on hold for 10 more minutes, waiting for TWC to tell me its own mailing address, when I said “Forget this, I can find the damn address myself in less time than this”. I hung up. I then got an email cancelling the “appointment” I had been emailed about earlier.

Wow. Over an hour to get my services cancelled, and even then it wasn’t truly completed. I still need to find the address to send the equipment to. Even on the way out, even as I was slipping through Time Warner Cable’s slimy grip, it still found a way to give me inconsistent information and waste my time.

At this point, I’m approximately 92.5% certain TWC will try to keep billing me into 2014 or so, despite the cancellation. I admit to a burning desire to sue TWC; whether I actually do so or not is up in the air.

If you and I, fair reader, ran our small businesses like this, we’d be out of business in weeks. If I behaved in this manner, I would literally lose my law license and be banned from practicing law, and that’s part of what angers me so much about these kinds of situations – the complete lack of any direct consequences when a company like Time Warner Cable essentially steals from its customers. Make no mistake, taking money for services you don’t provide is fraudulent and shameful. Imagine if you hired me to represent you in a lawsuit, I promised to provide the full services you needed in exchange for $5,000.00 but then knowingly failed to show up at some court hearings, failed to file some of the court documents needed, and gave you inconsistent advice that made no sense? I would be a fraud, a sham, a lawyer in need of punishment. Instead, I’m a lawyer writing about how TWC is in need of punishment.

Should I sue Time Warner Cable?