W. Va. Eyes Collection Fees


West Virginia's cable operators have been slapped with subpoenas by the state
attorney general's office, where officials questioned the industry practice of
charging a fee if a worker is dispatched to collect a past-due payment.

The state has been looking into the billing practice for more than seven
months, and officials have apparently concluded that the charge violates a state
prohibition against debt-collection fees.

The subpoenas give the companies -- which include Adelphia Communications
Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., as well as small,
independent operators -- until Aug. 15 to answer to the state.

Mark Polen, executive director of the West Virginia Cable Association, said
operators can't supply the information sought by the attorney general without
violating privacy laws.

Further, the charges in question are trip charges for a service rendered to
late payers. The charges, averaging $10 in the state, can be avoided by
consumers if they pay by mail or drive themselves to offices to satisfy their
past-due accounts.