MANHATTAN (CN) — Announcing the results of a 16-month probe, New York’s Attorney Eric Schneiderman did not mince words about the promise of “lightning-fast” internet speed.
“Spectrum Time-Warner has been ripping you off,” Schneiderman said at a press conference on Wednesday morning to announce the filing of an 80-page fraud complaint.
“Today’s action seeks to bring much-needed relief to the millions of New Yorkers we allege have been getting cheated by Spectrum-Time Warner Cable for far too long,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Even now, Spectrum-Time Warner Cable continues to offer internet speeds that we found they cannot reliably deliver.”
New York’s top law-enforcement officer says the con stretches all the way back to 2012, three years before Time Warner Cable merged with Charter Communications and announced jacked-up prices under the Spectrum-Time Warner brand.
Time Warner rolled out a television-ad campaign in 2014 unveiling supposedly “Ultimate Internet” speeds of 300 megabits-per-second as a “new dimension of reliability and a revolution in velocity essential for today’s online life.”
Schneiderman told reporters at this morning’s press conference that the company’s executives knew at the time that their wireless routers were not powerful enough to deliver on this promise.
As quoted in the complaint, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Time Warner’s former vice president of customer equipment told senior colleagues that customers typically reached speeds 70 percent slower than what they purchased.
“Generally a customer connecting via wireless will receive less than 100 Mbps,” the unnamed executive allegedly wrote on Oct. 16, 2014, producing what he called a “mismatch between what we sell the customer and what they actually measure.”
Schneiderman told reporters that his office has been inundated with disapproval.
“It was only a matter of time until the customers started to catch on, and they did and the complaints started flowing,” Schneiderman said.
The complaint also quotes service representatives as complaining to their bosses about an internal directive from 2013, instructing them to steer customers toward speeds the company could not deliver.
“Our customers NEED to be put into the proper packages so that we are conducting business with integrity,” one customer-service representative said. “It seems as if this is a hustlers job trying to out hustle everyone else trying to make the most money WE can and not doing the right thing … By operating like this, customers laugh at our integrity as a company.” (Capitalization and punctuation errors in original.)
Highlighting that representative’s quote on a placard, Schneiderman stood behind a podium at his lower Manhattan office with the slogan “Rooting Out Fraud.”
As New York’s largest internet service provider, Spectrum-Time Warner rakes in “well over” $1 billion a year from roughly 2.5 million of the state’s households, according to the complaint.
Schneiderman seeks a permanent injunction stopping Charter Communications and Spectrum Holdings from violating New York General Business Law, as well as civil penalties and restitution for the New Yorkers who paid excessive fees during time period.
A spokesman for Charter Communications, the lead defendant, did not immediately respond to a telephone request for comment.