ED Magedson – Founder
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS12405 Powerscourt Drive St. Louis, Missouri United States of America
In April of this year I selected one of Charter Communications Bundles composed of Digital TV, Telephone and Cable. I had TV and Cable at the time and was signing up to add the phone to their bundle. When signing up I was quoted one price ($29.99 per month) for the phone portion of the Bundle and was told there would be no installation charge ($30.00). My first bill the phone was $34.99 plus a proration of a partial month of $15.15. This was a double charge for a full month plus a partial month of $20.15. The $30.00 installation charge I was told wouldn't apply was on the first bill as well bringing the total overcharge to $50.15.
Charter outsources the selling of their services to independent third parties. By law third party sellers are required to disclose their representation of the firm whose products or services they are offering. I was told nothing. I don't know the exact number of these third parties but conservatively I would estimate 30 such entities. Charter exerts little if any control of these firms who are compensated based on the amount of business generated. Competition among these sellers is intense opening the door for misrepresentation and false inducements to get your business. It allows a buyer to go down the list of of phone numbers and get quotes until you find one you like. In fact, the first seller I called was to willing to discount prices on everything I was looking for. Figuring that would cause billing problems and seeing myself say to Charter but that's what they said it would cost, I declined. The second seller I contacted quoted prices more in line with I thought they might be. The long and the short of it was that despite my caution the prices I was quoted didn't enter charter's billing system in the same amount. 5 months I've been stonewalled trying to get Charter to honor the prices the people they pay to generate business told me they would be. It has occurred to me that perhaps these third party sellers were less than forthright, with Charter completely oblivious to the possibility of fraudulent low price quotes. Not.
Quoting from Wikipedia "Charter has been criticized for poor customer support and frequent billing consistency issues, causing the Better Business Bureau to post a warning to consumers about the company:
"The Better Business Bureau has received numerous complaints regarding this cable, digital TV and high speed internet access provider. Complaints primarily allege that the firm had IMPROPER BILLING PRACTICES, referred customer bills to collection agencies in error, provided poor customer service, USED MISLEADING ADVERTISING, provided defective internet or cable performance, USED IMPROPER SALES TACTICS or ***MISREPRESENTED THE ACTUAL COSTS OF INSTALLATION AND SERVICE***, Failed to properly install or maintain service, damaged customers' property and failed to honor service appointments." Other than that it's a great little company.
Wikipedia goes on stating "PCW also ranked Charters cable service as worst among 14 major internet service providers, is the second-worst-rated cable ISP on dslreports.com, Consumer Reports indicated in their February 2008 issue that Charter's television/internet/telephone bundle collectively is the worst of all major national carriers". Their are other hick-ups such as "accidentally deleted the email accounts of approximately 14,000 customers with the data irretrievable." There are other miscues to peruse in this article if so desired.
On the Better Business Bureau site is a list of "Customer Complaint History" for Charter. The highpoints - over a three year period Charter had "6,871" complaints, about 6.3 per day. In a major category were "2,891 regarding Billing or Collection Issues". Among this group near and dear to my heart or what I experienced were "1,145 - FAILURE TO CORRECT BILLING ERRORS 107 - FAILURE TO SUBSTANTIATE CHARGES." Other complaints in this category were 1,337 - None of the Above - None of the above but related to Credit, Billing, or Collection Complaint Issues. I'm not sure what that means but probably reflects the customers inability to articulate in an understandable manner what the actual problem was (it's hard to understand what people are saying when their screaming). A few more smaller number of complaints 22 - Failure to provide itemized billing as requested, 163 - Improper collection practices, 66 - Unauthorized bank debits and 20 - Unauthorized credit card charges.
Another major category had 900 regarding Customer Service Issues. 453 - Failure to provide promised customer support. 80 - Failure to return phone calls requesting assistance. 79 - Inappropriate behavior of customer service personnel. 378 -None of the above but related to customer service issues.
I grouped together 6 categories for 1,103 complaints. Of those 252 regarding SALES PRACTICE ISSUES; 422 regarding Refund or Exchange Issues; 291 regarding Repair Issues; and 138 regarding Delivery, Warranty and Product Issues.
The next to the last major category plus one category with a single issue was 1,554 complaints regarding Service Issues. The single issue category 199 regarding ADVERTISING ISSUES; 560 - Improper or inferior service; another 622 of - None of the above - but related Service Complaint Issues and a combined 132 - Delayed Completion of Service and Failure to honor agreement.
The last category had 166 complaints regarding Issue Not Defined. This group was likely comatose and unable to speak due to the trauma of really bad service.
The real barometer of Charter's dismal service, aside from fee misrepresentations (accompanied by remuneration for the sellers service) by third parties to lure business in the door, were the number of unresolved complaints. Out of 6,871 complaints there were 4,078 where "The consumer failed to acknowledge acceptance", of Charters resolution to the complaint, to the "BBB". Fully 60% (actually 59.40%) of complaints were never resolved. Not to many companies could have 59.40% of unresolved customer complaints and stay in business; but, the fat lady has yet to sing.
To be fair Charter resolved 1,623 complaint issues where consumers "acknowledged acceptance to BBB" and "1,154" were given a pass as "Administratively Closed as the BBB" in 1,024 of these complaints "determined the company made a reasonable offer to resolve the issues but the consumer did not accept the offer." I wonder what the definition of a reasonable offer is. Probably is somewhat akin to what the meaning of is, is.
On a brighter note the BBB found that in fully 2 of the complaints "the company provided proper verification that indicated there was no obligation to resolve the issues" even though "the consumer did not accept the offer" (Wonder why the word reasonable was left out?). Let's see, Charter got it right 2 out of 6,871 complaints. That's 0.000291 and quite an accomplishment.
Even though Charter's miss-billings don't amount to much money, their arrogance and denial of what I was told the charges to be by an interested (as opposed to a disinterested) third party who was compensated by Charter to book the business, their abuses provide an incentive to address and bring scrutiny to bear on their unethical business practices. If I get my money back that will be a plus.
Brought in to right this listing ship in August 2005 is CEO Neil Smit, a former Navy Seal who ostensibly attained the rank of Lt. Commander in his 5 years of military duty. I don't think he's noticed the angle of the ship has slipped a couple of degrees more. Neither has Paul G. Allen, the owner of this nifty little company. Since he apparently doesn't realize he's not dealing from a position of strength, it might behoove him to take a reality check and descend from the tower and respond to complaints instead of aloofly and arrogantly turning away.
This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 10/04/2009 04:52 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/charter-communications/st-louis-missouri-63131/charter-communications-unrelated-3rd-party-buisness-solictors-for-charter-quoted-1-price-504247. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.
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