Bright House Networks has filed a formal complaint with the FCC about AT&T's marketing, saying that vendors for the telco made false and misleading statements in an effort to leverage the DTV transition into more customers for its U-Verse multichannel video service.
AT&T defended its business ethics in an e-mailed response to B&C.
In the complaint filed with the commission, according to a copy supplied by attorneys, the cable operator claims that AT&T has been trying to scare customers in several Michigan communities into switching to U-Verse by claiming that BHN will be unable to offer local TV stations after the transition, that it will need to "rewire" homes at a cost of $300-$400, and that BHN customers will need AT&T equipment to get local broadcast stations.
The complaint followed an exchange of letters between BHN and AT&T stretching back to January 2008.
BHN wants the FCC to force U-Verse sales agents, including those working for outside vendors, to at least stop making the statements, and better yet do some "corrective advertising." It also suggests the commission might want to further investigate AT&T and perhaps bring and enforcement action--which could include a fine.
"It does not good for the FCC to impose on entities like AT&T an obligation to provide specific, 'accurate' information about the transition in billing notices and promotional efforts if they are free
to preach falsehoods and misinformation about the very same matters elsewhere," argues BHN in the complaint.
"We conduct business in the highest ethical and professional manner," said AT&T in a statement, adding: "We'll review the filing and respond accordingly."
BHN says the inaccurate information has been going out for over a year, including in sales calls and in circulars and other materials which BHN includes as exhibits in its filing.
BHN points out that it offers broadcast stations in down-converted analog on its lowest price tier.
BHN argues that AT&T's marketing not only harms its business, but hurts consumers by undermining the DTV transition.
According to a letter from AT&T included in the filing, U-Verse attributed the circulars to two "rogue" employees of outside vendor who violated AT&T's code of business conduct. AT&T said they were no longer employed by the vendor and that it was reinstructing its vendors on proper ad materials. But BHN says the conduct continued, and told AT&T so in a December 2008 letter.
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