Cox customers battle sneaky TV shows and regional sports fees

Getty Images | Jeffrey Coolidge

Cable TV provider Cox is facing hundreds of arbitration claims alleging it failed to adequately disclose its “broadcast surcharge” and “regional sports surcharge” and used those fees to raise prices for customers who were promised fixed rates.

the Hattis & Lukacs Last night the law firm “filed 295 individual consumer arbitrations against Cox with the American Arbitration Association,” representing clients in 17 of the 19 states in which Cox operates, attorney Daniel Hattis told Ars. Hattis said he aims to file thousands more arbitration cases against Cox, who has a valued 3.4 million TV customers. The arbitration documents describe the claimants as “victims[s] of Cox’s bait-and-switch system under which the company charges customers more for its cable television service plans than Cox has announced and promised. »

Cox’s customer service agreement has a binding arbitration clause, which customers can opt out of within 30 days of receiving service. “Cox currently has the mistaken impression that the arbitration clause is a liability shield so that they will never have to face the consequences of their past deception because class action lawsuits are not possible, and consumers won’t bother filing a bunch of individual arbitrations for around $100 in damages,” Hattis told Ars in an email.

Request “refund of all payments”

Hattis is recruiting people for more Arbitration filings through this webpage which says, “If you are a current or former Cox Cable TV customer, you may have a claim for monthly surcharges.” The page says Cox’s broadcast and regional sports fees are $19 and $12.50 per month, respectively, and the site includes a form for potential claimants to fill out and submit.

Representing arbitration deposits provided by Hattis say, “Cox announced and quoted to the requester that local broadcast and/or sports channels would be included in the advertised price of the cable TV package, when in fact Cox charged the applicant for these channels via additional service charges disguised on the bill which Cox calls the “broadcast surcharge” and the “regional sports surcharge”. “Cox never disclosed these surcharges adequately” or that the actual monthly price of Cox’s cable television service plan would be higher than what Cox announced and quoted” and “never adequately disclosed that the price of the allegedly ‘guaranteed’ service would be secretly increased via increases in so- saying surcharges in the middle of a promised ‘guaranteed’ promotional or contractual fixed price period,” he said.

Individual arbitrations seek reimbursement of all payments for broadcast surcharge and regional sports surcharges, for punitive damages and attorneys’ fees, and for injunctions that would require Cox to change the way it announces awards .

Arbitrations accompanied by lawsuits

Hattis last year filed a complaint against Cox with similar claims in San Diego County Superior Court; the plaintiff is a customer who opted out of the Cox arbitration agreement. Hattis said that after the complaint was filed, reviews of Cox’s online ordering website suggested that “Cox began to include in the advertised price the broadcast surcharge and regional sports surcharge amounts – and for new customers, these surcharges don’t even seem to be However, existing customers continued to see and pay these surcharges on their bill, and for them, the surcharges are further increased in the middle of the so-called “guaranteed” price term of the contract.”

The lawsuit moved forward and in February, “we defeated Cox’s attempt to dismiss the case, and now the discovery is ongoing,” Hattis told us. of Judge Gregory Pollack decision stated, “Simply put, Cox cannot market a guaranteed fixed price for full services and then raise the price by simply labeling charges for certain services as ‘fees’ or ‘extras’.” A jury trial was scheduled for December 2022.

The mass arbitrations are necessary, Hattis said, because the lawsuit was to be filed “as an individual public injunctive relief action — to induce Cox to change its practices — because of the legal and enforceable arbitration clause of the Cox residential service agreement”.

“Mass arbitration is the logical culmination of legal positions the corporate defense bar has taken for decades as its members have achieved an ever-expanding interpretation of federal arbitration law, with the rationale that a large number of aggrieved consumers could still file a large number of individual arbitration claims,” Hattis said.

A spokesperson for Cox declined to comment on the arbitration cases today, saying they had not yet seen the filings. We also asked Cox if he still charges regional TV and sports broadcast fees to new customers and got no response.

Fees make the actual price higher than advertised

Cox and other cable companies say their TV streaming fees cover the amounts they pay retransmission broadcast signals and that regional sports royalties cover the amounts they pay to regional sports networks that broadcast the matches of local sports teams in each market. coxswain said the “broadcast premium reflects the increased costs associated with providing broadcast television stations to our customers” and that the “regional sports premium reflects a portion of the costs associated with providing regional sports networks to our customers and varies by the market “.

But TV providers have to pay for all kinds of programs to provide the basic service they advertise and sell to customers. Cutting out two categories of programming and charging a special fee for each is a strategy used by cable companies to advertise a lower price than what customers actually pay on their monthly bills.

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