Cox Communications, Inc. discriminates against the disabled and doesn't want them as customers. If you are a Cox customer and ask them for Lifeline support, you will be marked for elimination. That may not be everyone's experience at all times and places, but that's what happened to me last year in Oklahoma county.
Cox takes this routine from the health insurance industry: (1) this account isn't making enough profit; (2) we attach a large, supplemental charge we can't explain, and that the customer won't pay; (3) when the charge goes 90 days, we disconnect the service and hound the customer any way we like.
The city of Edmond and the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, who Cox says are the parties to whom your complaint goes in the event of an unresolved difference of opinion, did not so much as acknowledge receipt of my complaint. But, one can easily understand why not. They're simply too busy approving utility rate hikes and swimming in ill-gotten payola.
Oops, where are my manners? I don't know that the city and commission get gravy, and you shouldn't infer they do just because they act as though they do. Here is the complaint letter I sent to the corporation commission, with my lawyer's name and account number redacted:
October 14, 2008
Oklahoma Corporation Commission
2101 N. Lincoln Boulevard
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Re: Complaint of cramming by Cox Communications, Inc.
Dear Sir or Madam:
I humbly request your assistance and intervention in resolving a billing dispute. I am the victim of a novel statement padding routine resembling cramming by Cox Communications, Inc., which assessed a charge or adjustment and an unnecessary deposit totaling almost $250 to my account number XXX XXXX XXXXXXXXX. I thought we could talk it over and that Cox would correct its mistake, so I didn't pay the extra charges. I was told on separate occasions I wouldn't have to pay the charges. Unfortunately, when those charges became 90 days past due, Cox disconnected my TV, internet and phone bundle, took the deposit and put the balance out for collection.
Cox only blamed me, stating I probably provided an incorrect routing or account number, suggesting a lack of good faith. I know the problem is not my mistake and not their mistake they have failed to correct, but a deliberate attempt to get money they are not owed. My sole source of income is social security disability, and I told Cox that when I first spoke with them to establish service, and many other times subsequently. I requested Lifeline support. But Cox would never talk to me about that or allow me to have a reduced rate in the two years I subscribed, their belligerence demonstrating that their profit motive was always their only concern. I estimate I paid $2,000 to $3,000 more than I would have under Lifeline pricing, and it seems remarkable Cox has been and is still so eager to pursue me these past seven months for a charge they know isn't legitimate.
Cox has refused to review the matter, has been hostile and has lied to my lawyer and to me, has broken promises and has changed the amount in controversy slightly to create confusion. More than three months after being disconnected I'm still without a phone, my very limited, austere budget guttedand this experience makes me wonder if I can afford phone service when the practice of adding large, unscheduled charges has become customary.
On its website, Cox indicates payment by phone/bank draft is the preferred method, and that is how I paid my bill almost every time. I never had trouble until March 30, 2008. I entered my routing and account numbers and listened as the automated call read them back. They were correct. The system told me to wait for a confirmation number, then disconnected me. I called back, and the system told me I had an account balance of zero. Despite not having a confirmation number, I assumed Cox had what was needed to complete the transaction. The April statement shows that payment was received. I was surprised to find my phone service had been disconnected April 7, so I called and did the transaction again. I told the representative I received SSI and again asked if I could have Lifeline support. He asked me if I had an Indian card. I told him no. He told me I would not have to pay the returned check fees of $62.65, $99.01 and $83.90. On the statement those fees are dated April 3, 2008 and total the amount of the payment I was making, $245.56. He didn't indicate I'd have to pay anything extra. On the same page of the April statement, it shows a credit of $494.27, which is incorrect. I paid $248.71. That page is enclosed, along with the page listing their terms and conditions entitled Important Customer Information.
Cox's terms make possible a wide variety of options for them to charge fees, adjustments and new deposits if a customer is in arrears. Cox didn't charge me everything it could have on the statements that followed. I have spent many dozens of hours studying these statements trying to understand what they did. I still don't comprehend it fully, and neither have they, being unable to explain what is there and why. I have enclosed the relevant pages of the May statement showing an eye-popping $325.37 total due. My usual monthly charge was $114.47, approximately, varying slightly. It looks like Cox took my deposit of $62.65, but it's impossible to say that's what happened. In April the representative told me I could save $4 a month by switching to digital TV, so I said okay. He didn't tell me there was a charge to establish that service, and when I got this statement I sent the converter back. A telephone restoration fee of $20 plus a new deposit of $75 appears on the next page. No one told me about that. How the total for phone service that month was derived is unclear.
At this point, I asked [lawyer], an attorney, to talk with them and ask if they would waive these charges, which were now totaling $210.90, in that the extra charges had all started with the failure of the March 30 transaction, and Cox agreed to do that.
[lawyer] called Cox June 16 to ask if I could receive Lifeline support and she was told yes, but that those extra charges would be added back to my statement, and this time the amount they wanted me to pay was $237.58, added to my July statement. That day, Cox slowed my internet throughput speed to 30 kbps, closed my e-mail accounts and disabled two TV channels. I haven't included the June 8 or July 8 statement with this letter, but I am happy to provide copies of those if you would like to see them. I felt it would only complicate things. They are more of the same, incomprehensible for me and unexplainable by Cox. By now I had no doubt the charges were purely arbitrary and certainly not for services rendered, just simple profiteering. Also, Cox's behavior had demonstrated a genuine talent for abuse.
In July's first week, this fee became 90 days past due, so Cox sent its field service agent to my house July 7. He asked if I would pay the whole charge. I told him I had a difference of opinion with the office and hoped to work it out, and was not going to pay that day. He disconnected the whole service, and Cox sent a statement. Cox sent another statement July 18, relevant page copies enclosed, showing they seized another deposit of $75.71, mitigating the amount left owing to $160.26. That figure became $164.64 on a statement dated August 9, but showing an adjustment of $21.61, reason unknown, leaving $143.03 due.
[lawyer] and I visited the Edmond office July 16 to ask if they would consider dropping any or all of these charges, but all they would offer was to put me on a payment schedule. I wrote a letter to Cox July 24 and [lawyer] wrote July 26, sent by certified mail July 28 and received July 29, copies enclosed. On July 28, people representing themselves as Cox subcontractors showed up at my house accompanied by a woman named Nikki they said worked for billing. They told me they would install service and Nikki would review my statements. I told them we had a substantial difference of opinion, and Nikki would need to talk with [lawyer] to make sure any changes were properly documented before I would subscribe anew. [lawyer] spoke with Nikki and Nikki told her that if we would provide a letter from the bank stating Cox had not done a transaction to pay my bill between March 30 and April 3 and I would establish new service, she would consider removing the charge. I told [lawyer] I would get a letter from the bank if they would write it, but would need to see a statement with a zero balance before I'd consider doing business with Cox again. It took a few days to get the letter, copy enclosed.
I felt Cox was lying again, and I was right. Within a week, Cox put the balance out for collection, copy enclosed. The date of the collection notice is the same as the date of the letter from the bank. Cox ignored [lawyer's] letter disputing the charge, sent the account to the collection agency, which she tells me violates the law, and Cox never responded to her letter or reviewed what they did with my account.
This month I have received no mail from Cox or the collection agency. I expect Cox to initiate civil litigation. I don't know what you would call this. I think of it as criminal activity, a racket. I have spoken with many people who have told me very similar stories, some more outrageous than mine. My position has been I would prevent Cox from making this mistake by not paying these unfounded charges. Their position has been if a figure shows on a bill, it is owed, and they will follow me to the gates of hell to collect it. Can you help me?
Very truly yours,
Even the guy who disconnected me lied when he claimed Cox would raise their internet throughput speed to 1 gigabyte/second within a month. Cox turned collection over to Credit Management, LP of Carrollton, TX, also known as CMI. The name of the collection agency is incomprehensible, like everything else you get from Cox. With the deposits they took and the amount they claim is owing, they attempted to steal almost $300.
The collection agency threatened to report this to the credit agencies, but as of a few weeks ago had not done it. If I want new cable and internet service, they'll demand I pay that amount, which I don't owe.
In some developed countries, you have a choice of true, 100 MB-throughput providers that don't restrict usage. They charge about $7 a month (or so I'm told). Cox is the fastest thing we have. My highest speed was 3-4 MB, which is about twice as fast as DSL, and five or more times as fast as wireless. Each costs about $40 a month. So, I'm not as enchanted with Cox and the others as they think I should be.
We don't get anything better than that because the corporation commission and city won't allow it, although it's possible. But, don't extrapolate, or assume these hard-working public servants were paid off just because they act like it. Cox knows they're the fastest and that things will stay that way, so they do whatever they want.
Cox purchased the company from Multimedia Cablevision, which had worked out a deal whereby they received the free access, use and enjoyment of public easements at no charge, in perpetuity. So, the community provides all their customers and even looks after their wiring, which is of substantial benefit to Cox. You would think they'd have better things to do than kick the disabled in the teeth (and someone would object if they did).
But they know I can't afford to purchase every feature, nor had I given them free access to my bank account. So, I had to be eliminated, and they treated me as badly as they wanted, as you can see. Oh, my! They didn't think you'd see. But you just did.
I shouldn't be surprised. Stealing by corporations isn't a crime nowadays, nor is government intervention to restrict competition, which is the definition of fascism. I can't change the world, but I can refuse to deal with Cox Communications, Inc., and encourage others to do likewise.
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