Charter Spectrum Threatens To Ruin Potential Customers Over Debt They Don't Owe

from the class-act dept

There’s a reason U.S. cable and broadband companies have some of the worst customer satisfaction ratings of any companies, in any industry in America. The one/two punch of lagging broadband competition and captured regulators generally mean there’s little to no meaningful penalty for overcharging users, providing lackluster services and support, and generally just being an obnoxious ass.

Case in point: a new Charter (which operates under the Spectrum brand) marketing effort apparently involves threatening to ruin the credit scores of ex-customers unless they re-subscribe to the company’s services. It basically begins with a letter that threatens ex-users that they’ll be reported to debt collectors unless they sign up for service. It proceeds to inform them the letter is a “one-time courtesy” allowing them to sign up for cable or broadband service before the debt collector comes calling:

“A well-established credit history will more likely allow you to qualify for lower mortgage rates, better chances for obtaining credit cards and approvals for home rentals,” the letter says, suggesting that Schklair’s finances could be in serious trouble unless he returns to the Spectrum fold. “You have worked hard to build a great future for yourself and your family,” it says. “We look forward to welcoming you back.”

Maybe it’s just me, but that has a Sopranos-like ring of “You’ve made a nice life for yourself. Be a shame if something happened to it.”

The catch: the people being targeted with this latest dumb marketing ploy say they don’t owe Spectrum any money:

“I asked if he owes Spectrum any money.

“No,” Schklair replied. “It’s been years since I was their customer, and they’ve never said anything about my not paying any bills.”

No notices of missed payments?

“No.”

No warnings about adverse reports to credit agencies?

“No, nothing like that.”

Leave it to a U.S. cable company to think up a marketing strategy that involves threatening the livelihoods of folks who don’t actually owe it any money. My assumption is this kind of threat is levied heavily against lower-income communities where the constant fear of debt collection prods folks who may not even owe Spectrum to re-subscribe for fear of getting into trouble. Charter being Charter, of course, it tried to frame this as an “effort to reconnect”:

“A Spectrum spokesperson confirmed the letter’s authenticity and called it “an opportunity to reconnect” with the cable company.”

83 million Americans currently live under a broadband monopoly, usually Comcast and Charter. Between a lack of competition and captured regulators there’s fairly consistently zero real repercussions for idiotic behavior like this, which is why historically things don’t really change much. Increased competition in streaming TV has helped drive some improvements on that side of the coin, but the largely broken U.S. broadband market is a problem we don’t seem intent on seriously addressing anytime soon–in part because we refuse to even acknowledge the core problem (monopolization and the corruption that protects it).

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Companies: charter spectrum

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Comments on “Charter Spectrum Threatens To Ruin Potential Customers Over Debt They Don't Owe”

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27 Comments
BronzeCheetahsays:

I received a similar letter

but i do owe Charter money for and my letter says

"As a one time courtesy, Spectrum is pleased to announce that we will remove the prior debt associated with the account number allowing you to come back in good standing as a new customer. And, when you become a customer we will both remove your debt and cease reporting it to any credit bureau. That means a greater chance to qualify for lower mortgage rates, a better chance to obtain credit cards, and may allow you to gain approval for home rentals."

Kobysays:

Metastasize

Credit card companies have been doing something similar for many years. Some will attempt to contact a delinquent customer and offer to reactivate the card if they make a payment to bring the account current. The kicker is that the consumer actually owes the bill. I can understand one sleazy company taking ideas from another. But using it as a threat to retain customers who don’t owe anything is unconscionable.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

Funny… they got all up in arms about "debt" collectors randomly calling/texting people for bills they didn’t owe & yet someone at Spectrum decided we needed to use the mail to send veiled threats against consumers credit…
If only there was some sort of agency to actually punish this behavior… well it exists but has no teeth to do anything so the campagin coffers stay filled.

Whats adding more fear and anxiety to citizens lives when the corporate bottom line needs to be bigger so they can get slightly larger donations.

Anonymoussays:

Spectrum are notorious for faking the signatures of the elderly, claiming they’ve signed up to all sorts of services, then threatening them with prison time because they haven’t paid their debts. (because faking a signature didn’t give them the persons bank details).

We have a few large ISPs/TV providers in the UK that HAVE managed to get hacked data and set up elderly people with direct debits they never asked for or knew about.

They get fined, but when the fines are a fraction of the profit made…..

Anonymoussays:

Article seems disingenuous

The quoted text doesn’t say anything about debt collection and fairly obviously is suggesting (true or not) that entering into a subscription agreement with Charter could help the recipient build their credit, with all the benefits mention that said good credit could afford them.

I’m no fan of the cable companies’ practices, but this looks like manufactured alarm.

madasahattersays:

Re: Metastasize

Charter is abusing credit reporting by falsely threatening to damage your credit report if you do not reactivate. Credit card companies extending an offer on an actually delinquent account is a more of a courtesy to the customer. The credit card companies are doing anything illegal while Charter is threatening to do so. These are very different actions.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

They did address it with Charter, and their response is quoted in the article.

Even then, there’s as yet no indication whether this letter was a mistake, or if Charter is routinely sending these to people who don’t owe them money. Charter refused to clarify, and of course without publishing this information it wouldn’t be feasible to track down everyone who doesn’t owe Charter money to ask them. So the first "step" is to publish this, and see if that gets a better response, either from Charter (who wants to head off more bad press) or other former "customers" who got threatening letters about non-existent debt.

naschsays:

Re: Article seems disingenuous

The quoted text doesn’t say anything about debt collection

It may not use the word "collection" but it does say this: “To take advantage of this special debt removal offer, all you have to do is purchase a Spectrum TV, internet and/or voice product.”

The obvious implication is that if you don’t, the "debt" (which may or may not exist) will remain outstanding, and we know what often happens with outstanding debts.

fairly obviously is suggesting (true or not) that entering into a subscription agreement with Charter could help the recipient build their credit, with all the benefits mention that said good credit could afford them.

It’s also suggesting bad things could happen if they don’t.

“A well-established credit history will more likely allow you to qualify for lower mortgage rates, better chances for obtaining credit cards and approvals for home rentals… You have worked hard to build a great future for yourself and your family. We look forward to welcoming you back.”

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