CITIES SEEK REFUNDS OF CABLE FEES.Byline: Jennifer Hamm and Sylvia L. Oliande Staff Writers
Claiming that as many as 40,000 cable TV customers have been overcharged for an optional monthly maintenance fee, Glendale and Burbank officials are demanding that Charter Communications Charter Communications NASDAQ: CHTR is an American company providing cable television, high-speed Internet, and telephone services to more than 5.7 million customers in 29 states. It is the third-largest publicly traded cable operator in the U.S. refund TO REFUND. To pay back by the party who has received it, to the party who has paid it, money which ought not to have been paid.
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The cities' officials claim the 95-cent-a-month wire maintenance fee is way too high, and they have asked the cable provider to reduce the monthly premium to just 4 cents.
``The assumption on which they based the charge was so laughable,'' Glendale Mayor Dave Weaver
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Burbank Vice Mayor Bob Kramer said the higher rate was unjustified because it was based on bad information and false assumptions.
``They were overcharging, and I'm sure they were aware of it,'' he said. ``It was just adding to their profits.''
But Charter spokesman Joe Camicia said the service financed by the fee is beneficial to customers and that the cable provider plans to appeal the cities' action to the Federal Communications Commission Federal Communications Commission (FCC), independent executive agency of the U.S. government established in 1934 to regulate interstate and foreign communications in the public interest. .
``We're a little baffled by this one, frankly,'' Camicia said.
Charter offers the wire maintenance program as insurance against repairs that might need to be done to the cable in the home, which becomes the property of the subscriber once it is installed. Customers who do not pay the monthly fee must pay an hourly rate for repair service if the cable malfunctions.
Officials said more than 40,000 of the 80,000 to 90,000 subscribers in Glendale and Burbank pay for the program.
A recent audit of Charter's fees found that the wire maintenance program fee was based on technicians visiting everyone who subscribed to the optional service for at least one hour each year.
Telecommunications Communicating information, including data, text, pictures, voice and video over long distance. See communications. Management Corp., a consultant jointly hired by the cities, found that service calls were made to only 2 percent of the subscribers annually.
Michael Friedman, vice president of Telecommunications, said the appeal's effect on refunds has not yet been decided.
Both cities have asked that the refunds go out, regardless of appeals. But it will be up to the FCC (1) (Federal Communications Commission, Washington, DC, www.fcc.gov) The U.S. government agency that regulates interstate and international communications including wire, cable, radio, TV and satellite. The FCC was created under the U.S. to decide whether to hold off until the appeal is considered.
Another issue that will have to be decided is exactly who will get the refunds. Friedman said the company has the option of paying out to all of its current subscribers rather than comb comb
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