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Consumer Reports hails New York’s consumer fraud settlement with Charter over internet speeds

CR filed amicus brief in support of New York’s lawsuit against Charter

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer Reports today praised the New York state attorney general’s record $172 million consumer fraud settlement with Charter Communications for defrauding its internet customers.

Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports said, “This is great news for consumers in New York, and the impact could be felt far beyond the borders of the state. It sends a message to internet providers that, if you don’t live up to your advertised promises, the hammer is coming down on you. We have pressed state and federal regulators about companies like Charter that don’t deliver the internet speeds they advertise. This record settlement could bring some much-needed changes to a market where the lack of competition breeds this kind of behavior. States like New York are stepping up to hold internet providers accountable, and the FCC needs to do the same.”

The state had sued Charter, New York’s biggest internet service provider, for allegedly failing to deliver the internet speed or reliability it had promised subscribers — including leasing deficient modems and wireless routers, and marketing and charging more for download speeds that it could not reliably deliver, because it did not have the network capacity to do so.

In April Consumer Reports filed an amicus brief with the Communications and Technology Law Clinic at Georgetown’s Institute for Public Representation in support of the state’s lawsuit, saying that internet service providers like Charter could not hide behind what’s left of federal net neutrality rules — the Transparency Rule — as a defense for misleading consumers about their services, such as failing to deliver the internet speeds they advertise.

This settlement over advertised internet speeds in New York comes on the heels of Charter’s October announcement that it would raise prices for its broadband service and increase fees, including device rental fees, for all of its Spectrum cable customers. Charter offers internet, cable, and phone services in 41 states.

Schwantes said, “This settlement is the latest example of how internet and cable companies are misleading millions of Americans about the services they offer, from internet speeds to hidden fees. We commend the state attorney general’s office for standing up for consumers and shining a light on these rip-offs.”

This year, Consumer Reports launched “What the Fee?!,” an organization-wide effort to highlight surprising fees and charges across industries, and help consumers fight back — including fees charged by cable and internet giants like Charter. To learn more about the What the Fee?! campaign and share your own experience with fees, visit www.WhatTheFee.com.

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Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.