Los Angeles Sues Time Warner Cable For Shoddy Customer Service

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Los Angeles city attorney Rocky Delgadillo filed a lawsuit Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court against Time Warner Cable for significant service lapses in 2006 and early 2007, officials in his office have confirmed.

The suit, first reported in the Los Angeles Times, is linked to the problems the operator had during the time it assumed control of the former Adelphia Communications Inc. systems in the area, as well as system swaps it executed with its co-buyer in the Adelphia transaction, Comcast Corp.

Time Warner's takeover necessitated an e-mail migration by customers from Adelphia and Comcast domains to that of Time Warner; channel line-up changes, billing changes (especially among Adelphia customers, where poor database management had allowed some customers to pay discounted rates years after the offer had expired) and other customer-facing changes. The resulting customer calls swamped the call centers leading to long hold times.

During that period, the city recorded 1,997 complaint calls, compared to 984 complaints in the same period the previous two years. But Time Warner rushed to hire more personnel and has been operating without public outcry for at least 14 months before this lawsuit.

The complaint alleges that Time Warner violated state business regulations by making misleading statements to customers. Time Warner's advertising at the time promised the transition would be easy and consumers would have to take little or no action because of the change in ownership.

At the time, the city had a contract with Time Warner requiring it to answer all calls in 30 seconds or less and to begin repairs, once notified of a problem, within 24 hours, 90% of the time. Time Warner was out of compliance with those standards for about six months.

The operator is no longer controlled by the city of Los Angeles; in 2007, the state legislature approved a state franchising scheme, shifting cable regulation to the Public Utilities Commission. Time Warner applied for regulation by that agency in January.

Time Warner now controls most of the cable homes in the city of Los Angeles, except for a franchise area in the harbor-San Pedro area operated by Cox Communications Inc. and in Malibu, where Charter Communications Inc. serves about 100 homes.

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