Irregularities Found in Cable Firm’s Fees


The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday ruled that an east San Fernando Valley cable television company had overcharged its customers for some services, and undercharged it for others, leaving uncertain the possibility of refunds to subscribers.

The City Council found that, between Sept. 1, 1993, and July 14, 1994, United Cable Television had charged its 86,000 customers overly high fees for basic monthly service and cable installation.

During the same period, however, the City Council determined that the cable company had undercharged subscribers for the leasing of equipment such as remote controls and converter boxes.


Once United Cable sorts through its overcharges and undercharges, the refunds it is required to give back to its customers may be little to none, said David Hankin, assistant general manager of the city Department of Telecommunications.

“I can’t tell you if the consumer is going to receive any refunds,” Hankin said. “Stay tuned.”

Hankin said he does not want to unnecessarily raise people’s expectations about a refund. But he added that he is confident the overcharges and undercharges will not balance out to mean additional charges for customers.

In 1992, Congress passed a law making it possible for municipalities to be certified to set cable rates for basic services, taking the power to set prices away from the local cable companies.

The cable companies, it was believed, formed monopolies in many cases and were charging overly high prices. Cities taking responsibility for setting rates would counteract this trend, it was believed.

The City Council ordered United Cable to return in one week with a plan describing the amount of a refund, if any, as well as its method for calculating and distributing refunds.