L.A. Lawsuit Hits Adelphia

Two Los Angeles subscribers have sued Adelphia Communications Corp. for damages, claiming the operator's shift of premium programming from analog to digital carriage deprived its analog customers of services they had already paid for.

Pacific Palisades residents Mark Shelmerdine and Susan Jeffers filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court on May 16, charging Adelphia with breach of contract, unfair business practices and unjust enrichment.

The plaintiffs and their attorney, Henry Gradstein, want to represent all of the customers who declined to upgrade to digital after Adelphia moved its premium channels and some basic services to that tier.

Adelphia moved such networks as Home Box Office, Showtime and The Movie Channel and basic channels ESPN Classic and Sundance Channel to digital at the end of March. The loss to individuals doesn't add up to much, but the cumulative cost to consumers could top $100,000, the suit contends.

Key to the complaint are the timing of bills and automatic debits. The lawsuit argues that Adelphia made its programming shift after the consumers had prepaid for the month, therefore the subscribers paid for services which they could no longer access.

The plaintiffs paid their cable bill via a charge to their credit cards, according to the attorney.

The two subscribers also claim they're still being charged for HBO, even though they can't get the channel because they don't get digital service. They say they had called the operator repeatedly and are still being charged.

Adelphia's local office referred calls to an executive at the MSO's corporate office in Coudersport, Pa., who did not return calls last week.

The suit is the latest scuffle over Adelphia's digital conversion in Los Angeles, which prompted a triple-digit spike in complaints to city regulators.