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Cablevision Faces $250M Suit For Sandy Outages

A pair of Long Island, N.Y., Cablevision Systems customers have filed a $250 million class action suit against the MSO for billing and failing to offer immediate credits to customers that lost service in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

According to the suit, filed Nov. 13 in New York State Supreme Court in Nassau County, Irwin and Jeffrey Bard, two Cablevision customers in Nassau and Suffolk County, respectively, claim the MSO is billing customers for services they did not receive as a result of the storm.

The class action suit was filed on behalf of the 1 million customers they claim lost television, Internet and telephone service in New York in the wake of the storm, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys Napoli Bern Ripka Shkolnik LLP.   

Cablevision, with customers in the New York metropolitan area and southern New Jersey – the two areas hardest hit by the storm – has said in the past that it would offer credits to customers that lost service if they notified the company within 30 days after power was restored to their residences.  In addition, customers can visit to enter the period of time they were without service and their credit will be processed.

Of the pay TV providers that were affected by the storm, all have offered to credit customers for lost service. Time Warner Cable said it would automatically credit customers in the affected areas. But people familiar with Cablevision said that because of the nature of the outages – some neighborhoods lost power, had it restored and lost it again – it is difficult to issue automatic credits.

According to Cablevision, about half of its 3 million New York, New Jersey and Connecticut customers were without power – and subsequently cable service – immediately after the storm swept through the area on Oct. 29. As of Nov. 14, the company said that about 78,583 customers were still without power. Of the 3.16 million customers that did have power in the area, 28,114 did not have cable service.

"The lawsuit misstates the facts and is without merit,” Cablevision said in a statement. “But lawsuits aside, we have an extremely broad and customer friendly credit policy following Sandy.  Blanket or arbitrary credits for cable outages could shortchange customers because each case is different and our policy covers the entire period of time when Cablevision service was out, including when the service interruption was caused by the loss of electrical power."

In their lawsuit, the Bards claim that although the vast majority of its customers were affected by the storm, the company has “only agreed to rebate some of its most favored customers on a discretionary basis and in varying amounts, and only after the customers’ contacted Cablevision for the rebate.”

The plaintiffs added that for customers that have threatened to discontinue service, the rebates have been more generous.

While the plaintiffs understand that the MSO could not provide service when power was out, the suit alleges that Cablevision was obligated to immediately rebate every customer for the period of time service was disrupted. And  because the suit alleges Cablevision knew, or reasonably should have known, that it could not supply its services, the MSO should not have accepted payments for services during the period when service was disrupted.