Los Angeles Sues Time-Warner Cable Company

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For every person who had to wait forever for Time Warner Cable, Inc. to pick up the phone, for every customer who had to slog through an automated voice menu, then stew waiting to talk to a person, for every family that went days without TV or internet, Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo struck a blow Friday. On behalf of the city of Los Angeles, Delgadillo sued the top cable provider for southern California, saying its service was so bad it constituted fraud and deceptive advertising.

The city wants $2,500 for each instance, double if the victim was old or disabled. Part of the problem in Los Angeles stemmed from the company's complicated task of absorbing Comcast and Adelphia customers, not everyday business. Consumers had filed their own civil suit a while back.

"Hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles residents were ripped off," Delgadillo said in a statement. "Time Warner must be held accountable for its promises."

City prosecutors said the suit would be filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Time Warner Cable representatives had no immediate comment.

The New York-based company could face civil penalties of tens of millions of dollars.

Delgadillo's office has taken corporate interests to court several times, suing local hospitals on allegations that they dumped indigent patients in downtown Los Angeles and accusing Anthem Blue Cross of scheming to cancel health insurance for people diagnosed with serious and expensive medical conditions.

Time Warner became the major cable TV provider in the area when it joined with Comcast Corp. in 2006 to buy out bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp. Time Warner and Comcast then swapped franchises so each would dominate markets in different U.S. regions.

The combination was difficult because Time Warner Cable had to upgrade the old Adelphia and Comcast systems and merge them with its own. Nearly 500,000 subscribers in the city were affected.

In the suit, which focuses on service from the fall of 2006 to the spring of 2007, city prosecutors cite brochures and television advertisements that they say gave the false impression that pricing for cable and Internet services would stay the same.

The suit says the company failed to live up to its part of the franchise cable agreement requiring that a company answer subscribers' calls within 30 seconds and begin repairs of service interruptions within 24 hours of notification in 90% of its calls for service. The suit claims that no more than 60% of customer service calls were answered in time.

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