Charter Sued Over 'Illegitimate' WiFi Activation Fee

A Charter customer in Florida has brought a potential class-action against the company for allegedly charging subscribers "illegitimate" WiFi activation fees.

Sharon Memmer of Pinellas County alleges in a class-action complaint that Charter wrongly charged her a $9.99 fee to activate WiFi service, even though she had WiFi service for many years through Bright House -- one of the providers Charter acquired last May.

"Plaintiff did not 'activate' a WiFi or other internet service with defendants after the Bright House acquisition," she alleges in papers filed in Pinellas County Circuit Court.

She alleges that Charter ran afoul of a Florida consumer protection law that provides for damages of up to $1,000 per violation.

The Tampa Bay Times, which first reported on the lawsuit, says that many local residents were charged the $10 activation fee, even though they previously had service through Bright House. The paper adds that the company "initially downplayed the complaints."



For its part, a Charter spokesperson says some customers were "inadvertently" charged the activation fee due to a billing code error. The spokesman says the company is "proactively and automatically crediting any customer who was incorrectly charged."

It's worth noting that the billing snafu isn't the only reason some customers have expressed dissatisfaction with Charter since its purchase of Bright House and Time Warner.

Some Charter customers are also complaining about price hikes at the end of their "promotional" periods, The Los Angeles Times reported recently. Los Angeles Times journalist David Lazarus noted that his own rate was set to increase from a "promotional" $65 a month for Internet and phone service to at least $85 a month.

The complaints probably shouldn't be surprising. Advocacy group Free Press, which opposed Charter's merger with Time Warner and Bright House, predicted that the merger would result in higher prices and poor customer service.

"With diminished competition and a customer base with no other options, Charter would have no incentive to improve customer service," Free Press warned in 2015, when regulators were evaluating the deal. "The bottom line is that the math doesn’t work unless big price hikes are coming, and Charter certainly isn’t promising anything to the contrary."

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