Consumer watchdog targets Charter's Spectrum repricing in L.A.

Charter van

Just two weeks after rebranding its legacy Time Warner Cable customers in the Los Angeles area under the Spectrum moniker, Charter Communications already finds itself facing some backlash in the region. 

On Tuesday, Los Angeles Times consumer watchdog David Lazarus published a column ominously headlined, “Attention former Time Warner customers: Get ready for your cable bill to go up.” 

Is it fair? Questionable.

Lazarus led his column with the story of a 74-year-old Culver City resident who mistakenly attributed a $22 increase for his triple-play service to a price gouge — his 12-month promotional deal had coincidentally expired at the same time his service was being rebranded under the Spectrum name.

The writer notes that his own TWC internet and phone service is set to nearly double to $120 in December when his promotional period ends. Lazarus said his best alternative from Charter is to switch to an $85 Spectrum double-play package, “a more than 30 percent increase over my current rate.” 

Of course, the end of promotional periods would have heralded a price increase for both customers, regardless as to whether Charter took over TWC. Charter has laid down a pricing model that is a bit simpler than TWC’s and definitely less focused on promotions. Indeed, comparing a model that leaned heavy on price promotions with a Spectrum strategy that doesn’t have contracts or a lot of promotions is complex. And it’s tough to numerically show that Charter has rolled into Southern California and jacked up everyone’s cable bill. 

Forsaking side-by-side comparisons, Lazarus called on an eager local consumer group.

“Spectrum is proving the worst suspicions of consumers,” said Jamie Court, president of the Santa Monica advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, to the paper. “Bigger isn’t better when there’s only one broadband line coming into people’s houses.”

Charter reps had no comment to FierceCable’s inquiry this morning. However, company spokesman Dennis Johnson did tell Lazarus, “After your discounted promotional period ends, prices are subject to change. But it is also important to make clear, Spectrum occasionally reviews prices to ensure they match the value of what the customer receives and reflects the cost of providing those services, but doesn’t automatically raise prices every year.”

For more:
- read this Los Angeles Times story

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