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Cablevision sued for asking customers to pay for services post-Sandy

It sounds as if it’s an existential question, and yet it’s at the center of a lawsuit filed against cable, Internet and telephone provider Cablevision this week: Should customers have to pay for services they have subscribed to, but never received?

The company is facing a $250 million lawsuit filed by New York resident Irwin Bard and his son, according to a story from the Hollywood Reporter. According to the Bards, Cablevision has “forced” customers to pay their regular billed amount for whatever services they traditionally receive despite the fact that they may have gone without full service – or maystill be without full service – as a result of last month’s superstorm Sandy. The lawsuit asks Cablevision to rebate every customer for whatever time their service was disrupted as a result of the storm.

All of which sounds pretty reasonable, surely…? Well, there’s just one problem, according to Cablevision: They’re already on top of that.

In a statement issued in response to the filing, Cablevision said that “the lawsuit misstates the facts and is without merit, but lawsuits aside, we have an extremely broad and customer friendly credit policy following Sandy.” Explaining that there are already processes in place to allow customers to report the length of their specific outage and receive credit in response, the statement went on to argue with the basic logic presented by the lawsuit. “Blanket or arbitrary credits for cable outages could shortchange customers because each case is different,” the statement explained. “Our policy covers the entire period of time when Cablevision service was out, including when the service interruption was caused by the loss of electrical power.” In other words, Cablevision isn’t just saying that it’s already doing what the lawsuit wants to compel the company to do, but it’s doing it better.

That apparently doesn’t pass muster with either the Bards or their attorney. Hunter Shkolnik, who’s representing the Bards in this case, said that, if Cablevision really cared about its customers, there wouldn’t be any need to offer credit or refunds at all. “[If] Cablevision knew, or reasonably should have known, that it could not supply its services, Cablevision should not have accepted payments for services not provided,” Shkolnik told the website.

What the lawsuit is looking to do is to push the onus of information gathering about the length of the outage onto Cablevision, and make credit and/or rebates mandatory to every customer affected by the storm. That’s not going to be a small job, if that’s the way things end up going down. A lot of customers were affected by Sandy; according to Cablevision, more than 90,000 customers lost power during the storm, with an additional 30,000 who kept power but lost their Cablevision coverage.

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