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Spectrum to automatically refund controversial $9.99 'wifi activation' fee

More customers of Charter Communications' Spectrum business have reported issues with a mistaken one-time fee of $9.99 to former Bright House customers. Charter bought Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks last year.
[Associated Press file photo]
More customers of Charter Communications' Spectrum business have reported issues with a mistaken one-time fee of $9.99 to former Bright House customers. Charter bought Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks last year. [Associated Press file photo]
Published Jan. 28, 2017

Charter Communications and its Spectrum brand will automatically refund the $9.99 "wifi activation" fee it had been charging former Bright House Networks customers who hadn't actually signed up for any new service.

A Spectrum spokesman made the announcement late Friday after a series of Tampa Bay Times stories last week noted more than 20 customers had complained that they were improperly charged.

Previous coverage: Customers say Spectrum is refunding wifi fee after they object

Though customers believe the charge was made deliberately, Spectrum spokesman Joe Durkin insisted it was a simple error.

"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," Durkin said in a written statement. "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."

Customers noted they had little choice but to transition to a Spectrum package when the company took over.

The Times posted a story online Friday that reported several Spectrum customers said the company was refunding the fee, but only after they called customer service to complain.

During the week, Spectrum released little information about why customers were being charged or if this is a wider problem for its more than a million customers around Tampa Bay.

Even with the latest statement, the company still has not said how many people have been affected by the mistaken billing.

Charter acquired Bright House in a deal that was finalized in May. But the company delayed rolling out its Spectrum brand locally until November, which apparently accounts for the activation fee being added to bills in December and January.

Frontier Communications, which acquired Verizon's landline phone, TV and Internet business in another deal last year, also faced problems when it integrated customers it inherited from Verizon. That transition caused much customer consternation, mostly due to long service outages.

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