ALBANY – Charter Spectrum customers in New York are in line for $62.5 million in direct refunds and several months of free HBO or Showtime as part of a record settlement with the state.
Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced the $174.2 million consumer fraud settlement with Charter on Tuesday, the result of a lawsuit accusing the company and Time Warner Cable — which merged in 2016 — of promising internet speeds they knew they couldn't deliver.
The settlement is the largest of its kind against an internet provider in the U.S.
Are you in line for a refund or free premium cable? Here's what you need to know.
Am I getting a refund?
About 700,000 active Charter customers are in line for a direct refund of $75, according to Underwood's office.
Of those customers, 150,000 are set to get an extra $75 — or $150 total.
To qualify for the $75 rebate, a customer must have:
• Leased a modem or WiFi router from Charter or Time Warner that was inadequate; OR
• Subscribed to a Time Warner Cable internet plan that promised speeds of 100 Mbps or higher.
To get the extra $75 rebate, a customer must have had a slow modem for two years or more.
Add it all up, and those refunds total $62.5 million.
There's one caveat: Some customers have already received refunds for slow modems. Those subscribers won't get an extra refund, according to Underwood's office.
As of Tuesday morning, it wasn't clear exactly which models of modems or routers will qualify for the refunds.
It doesn't apply to customers who owned their own modem or router, unless they subscribed to a Time Warner plan of 100 Mbps or higher.
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How will I know if I qualify?
Charter Spectrum has 120 days to notify eligible customers and distribute their refunds, according to the settlement.
So you don't have to do anything. Charter said it will notify customers.
Charter said it basically inherited some of the issues with Time Warner and has made many upgrades to the cable system -- which Underwood acknowledged in the deal.
"We look forward to continue providing the best TV, Internet, Voice and Mobile products to our customers, and to bringing broadband to more homes and businesses across the state,” Charter said in a statement Tuesday.
Am I getting free HBO or Showtime?
If you get both your internet and cable through Charter Spectrum, the answer is yes.
As part of the settlement, you would be entitled to three free months of HBO or six free months of Showtime.
If you only receive Charter internet service, you'll be entitled to a free month of the company's Spectrum TV Choice — a service that lets you stream broadcast television channels and your choice of 10 other channels.
Internet-only customers will also get a free month of Showtime.
Like the refunds, Charter has 120 days to notify eligible customers of the free premium channels or streaming service.
What if I already subscribe to HBO and Showtime?
If you're a cable and internet customer and subscribe to both HBO and Showtime through Charter already, you're not eligible for the free months, according to the Attorney General's Office.
But you still could get the rebate money.
"Not only is this the largest-ever consumer payout by an internet service provider," Underwood said, "returning tens of millions of dollars to New Yorkers who were ripped off and providing additional streaming and premium channels as restitution – but it also sets a new standard for how internet providers should fairly market their services.”
Isn't there another case ongoing with Charter and New York?
Yes, there is.
Separately from Tuesday's agreement, the state Public Service Commission is threatening to kick Charter Spectrum out of New York.
The state contends the Stamford, Conn., based company hasn't built out its high-speed internet services as quickly has it should have under the state's approval of its merger with Time Warner Cable.
The state and the company have been working toward a settlement in that case, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has continued to rail against the company for a union strike involving 1,800 utility workers in the New York City area.