Cable Theft... In Reverse?
Is your local cable TV company ripping you off? If you have service with Cox Communications in the Omaha Nebraska service area, the answer may very well be YES!
Several years ago I entered in to agreement with our local cable TV company in Council Bluffs. Our service included Cox Limited Basic ($12.50), Cox Expanded Service ($22.95) and HBO ($11.95). At the time we entered in to agreement, Cox Digital CTV was not yet a service being offered. Digital CTV wasn't offered in 1992 simply because it had not even been introduce as it was technology that was still on the drawing and had not been developed as a viable service.
For a while my family was satisfied with the service being provided by ore local cable TV provider. Then one day we had to call a service repair tech to our residence to resolve a problem with our cable connection. It was then that we learned that if we had a converter box provided by the cable company, we could receive three additional HBO channels, as it was a part of our service package. Upon closer examination of our service agreement, sure enough... we were depriving ourselves of the full use of our 4 Channel HBO package. My wife and I marked it up to experience and without delay, I went to our local cable TV provider and
leased a cable converter box.
Life was great. We now have access of all four channels of HBO. Years went by and service from our local cable company was great. Couldn't ask for better. When cable Internet came available, I jumped on the opportunity to get connected. As I expected, another great service provided by my local cable service. Life got better... then it happened.
Around April or May of 2002 I started receiving telemarketing calls urging me to sign up for the latest in cable TV technology... Cox Digital Television. The calls came so frequent that it was beginning to be annoying. When your home phone rolls over to your cellular phone, telemarketers can become costly to say the least. This problem was finally resolved after a week of receiving calls as many as three a day. I had to make it clear that if it didn't cease, I would discontinue all my services with Cox Communications. Now I realize $1329.36 I pay to Cox Communications annually wouldn't even put a dimple in their profit ratio but it was the only way I had to get their attention. The telemarketing calls stopped and life got back to normal... or so I thought.
I had noticed on my monthly Cox bill there was a short notice under the title What's New from Cox informing subscriber of channels that will be moving effective July 24, 2002. ESPN2 will move to #30 and VH-1 will move to channel #50. It was no big deal to me so I just ignored the notice because the notice didn't really have an effect on my service with Cox Communications. Was I ever wrong. I was not aware the July 24 date would be such an eye opener.
The morning of July 24th came upon us and just as I have grown accustomed to doing, I'd turn on the television in the early morning to catch up on the news and weather report. Due to my gender, I have the propensity to scan the channels with the remote control. Call it a psychosis or a genetic defect my wife has come to terms with my uncontrollable urge to scan channels.
It took my a while to notice not only had a number of channels moved from their previously designated location, it be evident that three of our four HBO channels were not coming in. At first I thought it was a glitch in the scheduled channel transformation previously announced by Cox Communications that were to take effect on July 24.
That afternoon I placed a call to Cox Communication to report problems with reception of my cable TV service. When asked to be more specific about the reception problem, I informed customer support that I could only receive one of the four HBO channels, that the other three were just snowy and what appeared to be scrambled reception.
The customer service lady reviewed my Service Plan' and replied that the reason for the disruption is due to the level of service I am paying for. I asked her to elaborate on that statement, as I had not authorized a change of my service plan with Cox Communications. She responded by informing me that it was because I hadn't changed my level of service as she explained the only way to receive the other three HBO channels would be to sign up for Cox Digital Television. I was informed the other three HBO channels were no longer available to subscribers with an analog service plan. It would require me to sign up for the newly implemented digital service plan.
I asked the customer service lady if the one HBO channel I was receiving was also available on their digital lineup. She confirmed that it was available on the digital service plan. I then asked her that if they were able to offer all the HBO channels to the digital service plane, then why did they remove three HBO channels from the analog service plan. She informed me that it was decided to do it that way to encourage subscribers to upgrade from the analog service plane to the digital service plan. She then seized the opportunity to try to sell me an upgrade service plan to their Cox Digital Television.
I went through the reason for my decision to stay with the plan I had for over ten years and that I had no desire to even consider an upgrade. Making this very clear to her, I then asked her that if Cox is, going to take something away from me that was previously agreed upon in our original service plan agreement, certainly there will be an adjustment to those of use who can no longer enjoy all four HBO channels. She was very direct in informing me that there is no mention of an adjustment in her notices, the HBO premium service of one HBO channel for analog customers will remain at $11.95 per month.
No amount of reasoning the case with her could even budge her to address the issue with her supervisors. She stated that I had no case to argue because they were only obligated to providing ONE HBO channel, that the other three channels were a free promotional offer to all cable TV subscribers.
I wasted no time challenging her stating it was certainly not a promotional offer as it was not and has never been the practice of Cox communications to offer a 10 year promotional and to even suggest that was the case would be to insult the intelligence of ALL Cox Communications subscribers. I furthered my challenge by stating that 10 years ago when I signed up for cable TV and HBO that commercial digital cable TV didn't even exist. How could the think that far ahead without divine intervention.
Customer Service was not willing to even entertain my request for consideration or to pass the issue up the chain of command. I sat down and went to my cable TV monthly billing and determined that I was being billed $11.95 each month for four HBO Premium channels. Now simple math would clearly indicate that $11.95 a month divided by 4 HBO channels comes to $2.98 dollars and if you take three channels away without5 offering an adjustment, each and every Cox Communications subscriber who is subscribed to the old analog service is being deprived $8.96 each and every month they satisfy payment of their monthly balance due. This does not even factor in the tax that is assessed on each customer on that amount.
I felt dealing with a first line of customer support may be part of the problem so I decided to place another call to customer support and in doing so, request to speak with a supervisor. I just couldn't believe Cox Communications would do this to their customers.
I was greeted by a gentleman on the first line of customer support with a friendly I can help you introduction. I requested to speak with a supervisor as I had a previous conversation with customer support that left my issue unresolved. He insisted that I address the problem with him first and if he couldn't resolve the problem, he would pass me on to a supervisor. No matter how much I tried to convince him that it couldn't be resolved on his level. That I needed to address the issue with a supervisor, he stood firm and insisted I deal with him first.
Well, I decided if I was going to get an opportunity to speak with a supervisor, I'll have to play along with his demands. Just as before, the whole scenario was hashed out and I got nowhere with my claim that Cox Communications owes its subscriber an adjustment. Just as before, I was again insulted with the contention that my original agreement was for only one HBO channel and the other three HBO channels were just indefinite promotional channels (A 10-year promotion?).
Conversation became heated as the customer support person refused to honor his agreement to pass me on to a supervisor as he stated I had no case to plea and passing me on to a supervisor would yield the same response. I then asked if he could provide me a contact name and telephone number of the legal department representing Cox Communications in Omaha. Although he did not have the information available, he did place me on hold and about 5 minutes later he returned offering to forward me to someone who could answer my questions.
My next conversation was with a lady who identified herself as an assistant or secretary to the vice-president of the Omaha area. It sounded to me like she was someone who could answer my questions so I proceeded to explain in full detail exactly what had transpired and the answers that were extended to me up to that point in time. She was very receptive and understanding about the matter at hand and although she couldn't provide me an answer, she stated everything I had presented was a valid issue and warrants looking in to as she felt something this obvious had to be an oversight. She also confirmed that I was correct in stating there was no way for the cable company to run a 10 year promotional as she concurred that digital cable TV wasn't even heard of 10 years ago.
We both agreed it was a matter that needed to be passed on to an administrator who was in better position to giver answer and render decisions to resolve issues on this level. She was kind enough to bring the matter to the attention of the vice-president and he would call me at my home telephone number at his soonest opportunity. She assured me he would call. Although it took a week, he did finally call me to discuss the issue further.
The caller identified himself as the vice-president of Cox Communications at the Omaha office. He was very pleasant and professional in the way he addressed the issue. When informed his customer support personnel were informing subscribers they were only obligated to providing one HBO channel as the other three HBO channels were offered as a promotional, he was very directed in correcting the claim as he assured me it was not the case and he was not aware his people were offering such an explanation. He seemed genuinely concerned about the misrepresentation being offered by his customer support personnel and stated he would clear that problem up without delay. I suggest he have someone outside the Cox employ to call and determine exactly what was being said as I felt after receiving the same answer from two employees that they were most likely being coached to extend that answer by their line supervisors. He stated it was a very good suggestion and that he may very well go that route.
Addressing the other issue, what to do about the loss of service, he explained they (Cox Communications) could no longer offer the other three HBO channels as the analog service did not cover the frequency allocations being used by the other three HBO channels. I asked him how then was he able to provide the forth HBO channel to both analog and digital subscribers? The only answer he could offer me at the time was that it was to complicated to explain and stated the FCC played a part in how it was set up and allocated. I felt he was dancing around the tough questions and really offered no legitimate explanation to the question.
I then applied pressure on the service fees issuer and what to do about an adjustment, all things considered. He was somewhat evasive in dealing with this issue and offered me no resolve until I made it clear that this problem was not going to go away. I further informed him he was not my last resort to addressing this issue, rather he was basically my first resort considering I have many other options available to include the Federal Trade Commission and the State's Attorney General's Office and the State's Consumer Protection Office.
It wasn't my intention to throw threats at anyone but I was determined to stand my ground and demand that Cox Communications either uphold their end of the agreement to provide four HBO channels OR extend an adjustment to those subscribers effected by the change of service. He asked me what it would take to make it right with me what did I have in mind as a reasonable adjustment. I told him the math was simple. The loss of three of the four HBO channels represents 75% of the $11.95 Cox Communications is now charging. An adjustment of $8.96 per month would be reasonable. He asked me if that is what it would take and I replied that it would be reasonable only if it was extended to ALL subscribers effected by the change of policy causing them to loose the enjoyment of the other three HBO.
His willingness no accommodate my suggestion was met with resistance. He made it clear that he was willing to work with me but to resolve the issue across to board was not within his scope of resolving the issue. He let me know in a very polite way that I was not the spokesman for all subscribers nor was he in the position to render such a decision, that it was matter for the top corporate officers to decide upon. Again I let him know that the problem wasn't going to just blow away and at some point in time it would be addressed. He wasn't very pleased with my persistence but he did offer to look in to it further and report back to me' when he was in better position to deal with the issue.
It has been since the end of July 2002 and I have yet to hear back from the vice-president nor have I or others in the same situation seen an adjustment on our monthly statement from Cox Communications. If my calculations are correct, Cox Communications should, without delay, provide an adjustment of $44.80 of what they have wrongfully collected from ALL subscribers who entered into agreement prior to July 24, 2002 and in doing so, cease and desist collecting $8.96 a month which represents 75% of the service they have wrongfully deprived subscribers since July 24, 2002. If Cox Communications fails to correct this matter in a timely manner, it should be evident that Cox Communications is wrongfully collecting fees for service previously agreed upon and have since deprived subscribers of the service the are clearly being billed for. As such, Cox Communications should be criminally charged with Theft of Service.
I wish to inform all concerned that there is no reasonable explanation for the conducted exhibited by Cox Communications and their lack of resolve. They are playing us all for lacking the intelligence to see when we are being patronized and swindled.
If you are in the same position as I have presented in this letter, please feel free to email me in support of this claim. If by chance you have available a copy of your original service agreement for the HBO premium package, please let me know. As this situation progresses, I may be requesting asking subscribers to join me in a legal action against Cox Communications.
Council Bluffs, Iowa