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Lawsuit filed against Spectrum for $9.99 wifi activation fee

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Spectrum in Pinellas County circuit court accusing the broadband company of wrongfully charging customers a $9.99 wifi activation fee.
[Associated Press file photo]

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Spectrum in Pinellas County circuit court accusing the broadband company of wrongfully charging customers a $9.99 wifi activation fee. [Associated Press file photo]

A Spectrum customer has filed a lawsuit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court accusing the broadband company of attempting to charge customers an "illegitimate" $9.99 wifi activation fee.

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed Jan. 31 by Sharon Memmer, 58, of St. Petersburg and names Spectrum's parent company, Charter Communications, as a defendant.

Memmer is one of more than a million former Bright House Networks customers Spectrum acquired when Charter bought the company in a deal finalized in May. The suit said Spectrum "illegitimately asserted" that Memmer "had newly enrolled in WiFi service" when she had, in fact, done no such thing.

Spectrum's "false assertions" to Memmer and other customers, the lawsuit said, "regarding their WiFi services and subsequent invoicing regarding the illegitimate WiFi Activation Fee is collectively an unfair method of competition, an unconscionable act or practice and/or an unfair or deceptive act or practice."

The suit, filed by the firm of LeavenLaw in St. Petersburg, seeks $1,000 for each affected customer and reasonable attorney fees. A Spectrum spokesman said he could not comment on pending litigation.

The Tampa Bay Times first reported last month that numerous Tampa Bay residents were charged the fee despite being long-standing Bright House network customers. Spectrum initially downplayed the complaints and said they had no evidence of a widespread problem.

Previous coverage: Spectrum to automatically refund controversial $9.99 wifi activation fee

But the company ultimately acknowledged customers had been mistakenly charged.

"Some former (Bright House) Internet customers were inadvertently charged the wifi activation fee when they transitioned to a Spectrum package, due to a billing-code error," Spectrum spokesman Joe Durkin said at the time. "We apologize for the inconvenience, and will proactively and automatically credit any customer who was incorrectly charged and communicate that to those customers on an upcoming statement."

The erroneous wifi activation fees are just one of numerous widespread complaints involving billing by Spectrum customers. Many former Bright House customers have complained that the company is breaking a promise not to raise their rates by falsely claiming their "promotional plans" are expiring. A majority of former Bright House customers, Spectrum says, were under such plans, even in cases in which customers had received Bright House service for a decade or more.

In addition, numerous snowbirds who had seasonal stops on their service while living up north complain that Spectrum turned on their service without authorization and then started billing them.

Previous coverage: Florida snowbirds complain that Spectrum bills them when they're out of state

Durkin in an email earlier this week insisted that, aside from the wifi activation fee, "There have been no billing issues or glitches involving customer accounts."

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.

Lawsuit filed against Spectrum for $9.99 wifi activation fee 02/09/17 [Last modified: Thursday, February 9, 2017 6:36pm]
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