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Cable Television Service: Consumer Rights

Cable Television Service: Consumer Rights

Complaints and Trouble Calls


When you have a cable television problem:

  1. Contact your cable operator and report the problem

  2. If your concerns have not been resolved--contact your local government, or

  3. Call the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) at 1-800-342-3377, visit our Complaint Department, or write to:

    Customer Service Representative
    New York State Public Service Commission
    Office of Customer Services
    Three Empire State Plaza
    Albany, New York 12223-1350

Your cable television company is required to let you know at least once a year of its complaint procedures. This must also be done at the time of your initial subscription or upon reconnection of service. Your cable television company additionally must advise you of the fact that any unresolved complaint may be referred to this Commission.


Trouble Calls

Any trouble call should be responded to on the day it is received by the company, but in no event shall the response be later than the following business day. The cable television company must maintain a local exchange or toll-free telephone number, available to all subscribers for those who wish to obtain information or to report a service problem.

Subscribers may request morning or afternoon appointments for service calls (or evening or Saturday hours where available). Missed appointments may entitle you to a free service call or installation.


Billing Practices

Every cable television company must notify its subscribers, in writing of its billing practices and payment requirements. The notice must describe or define, as a minimum: billing procedures (including payments necessary to avoid discontinuance of service and payment due dates), late charges, advance billing options, billing disputes and credit given for service outages. This notice must be given:

  1. To new subscribers, at the time of initial installation.
  2. To all subscribers whenever there is a change in the company's billing practices or payment requirements and semi-annually.

Copies of the company's billing practices and requirements must be filed with this Commission and available at the company's local office upon request by the subscriber.


Late Charges and Collection Charges

collection charge is a fee or charge imposed upon a subscriber by a cable television company for its effort at collecting or attempting to collect an overdue bill by personal visits at a subscriber's home or place of business. A late charge is a charge which is added to a cable television subscriber's account or bill for nonpayment of a previously due account.

No late charge may be imposed prior to forty-five (45) days from mailing of the bill. A reasonable collection charge can be added to a subscriber's bill, when a subscriber pays the amount of money in arrears in lieu of disconnection of service. Such collection charge must be in compliance with Commission regulations.


Billing Disputes

All cable bills must itemize rates and charges. Payment of bills is due no sooner than fifteen (15) days from mailing.

Every company must allow thirty (30) days from the date of receipt of the bill for a subscriber to register a billing dispute before an account may be considered delinquent. A subscriber must remit the undisputed portion of their bill and be responsible for undisputed portions of current and future bills pending resolution of the dispute.

Cable television service cannot be disconnected solely for non-payment of the portion of the bill in dispute during investigation of the complaint.

A subscriber must be notified of the results of the investigation within twenty (20) working days of filing the complaint.

If a dispute is not resolved within thirty (30) days after it was received, the subscriber may refer it to this Commission. If the subscriber is not happy with the resolution and does not file a complaint with this Commission within thirty (30) days of the company's reply, the company may initiate service disconnection procedures as appropriate in accordance with Commission rules.


Advanced Billing

Every cable television company shall notify its subscribers of any advance billing options available. A subscriber, upon request, shall be given the option of paying monthly. Use of coupon books for remittance of monthly payments shall satisfy the monthly payment option request. If such coupon books are used by the company, no other bills for service are required to be sent out by the cable television company.

Disconnection of Service

A subscriber is not considered delinquent in payment until at least (30) thirty days after the due date of the bill and payment has not been received by the company.

The procedure for service disconnection for nonpayment of bills must include the following:

  1. Subscriber must be in fact delinquent in payment for cable television service; and
  2. At least five (5) days have elapsed after written notice of disconnect has been personally served upon the subscriber; or
  3. At least eight (8) days have elapsed after mailing written notice of disconnect to the subscriber; or
  4. At least five (5) days have elapsed after subscriber has either signed for or refused a notice of disconnect.

The notice of disconnection must clearly state the amount owed, the total amount required to be paid to avoid disconnection and the date and place where such payment must be made.

Disconnection of service for non-payment may not occur on a Sunday, public holiday or a day when the local office of the company is not open for business. Receipt of a "bad" check by the company in response to a notice of disconnect does not constitute payment, and a company need not give further notice of disconnection.

A reconnect charge may not be imposed solely because a subscriber was previously delinquent with their account.

Credit for Service Outage

Every cable television company shall give credit for every service outage not caused by a subscriber in excess of 4 continuous hours to any subscriber who applied for it either by written or oral notice. The 4-hour period shall commence at the time the cable television company first becomes aware of the outage.

The credit must be pro-rated by multiplying the applicable monthly service rate by a fraction whose numerator equals the number of days (or portion thereof) of the outage and whose denominator equals the number of days in month of outage. In no case shall the refund be less than 24 hours credit. A subscriber may request a credit up to ninety (90) days after the outage. The company is responsible for every outage and must provide credit to each affected subscriber who applied for it within 90 days of an outage.

Programming Changes

All subscribers are entitled to notice of all programming and service changes by the cable company. Notice is to be provided at least semi-annually and at the time of initial subscription, when services are changed or upon request.

If a network is deleted or moved from one service level to another, a subscriber is entitled to notice and may be able to terminate or change service free of charge. Under special conditions subscribers may be entitled to a refund or credit.

Landlord/Tenant Issues

Tenants in primary service areas may not be denied cable television service by a landlord regardless of any existing private satellite or master antenna system.

Landlords or trailer park owners, may not discriminate in rental charges, or otherwise, between tenants who receive cable television service and those who do not.


Basic cable television rates can be regulated by state and/or local governments through the application of a federal price formula. Cable programming services (expanded basic) are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). An individual subscriber can no longer file rate complaints directly to the FCC. The PSC or local franchising authority can file a complaint with the FCC within ninety (90) days of the rate change after it receives at least two (2) subscriber complaints. A sunset date of March 31, 1999 has been set by the FCC for all price regulation of cable programming services (expanded basic). Premium and pay-per-view services remain unregulated. All rate changes require 30 days prior notice, unless notice is waived by the FCC.

Customer Service Standards

Cable television companies are required to answer business office telephones and provide service in a timely manner as prescribed by the State Commission or local franchise agreement.