You know the drill.
You call the cable company because you need an installation or service call. The Customer Service Representative tell you it will be a week before they can get to you, and that you have to be home all day to wait for the technician.
But as fate or bad luck would have it, the tech never shows up, and you have blown a day off of work without pay for no good reason…and you still need that service call.
You are mad. You are REALLY mad.
You call back in and a different Customer Service Representative apologies profusely, then offers to knock off $20 from your bill. Then the CSR reschedules the appointment for a few days later, and you get to plan to stay home yet another full day hoping against hope that the tech will show up this time.
There must be a better way to ensure that you don’t lose out when the cable operator misses an appointment! Well, there is.
A relatively few number of savvy California cable TV subscribers know about a little-publicized law. A law that requires the cable TV operator who misses an appointment to compensate you for your lost wages and expenses up to a cap of $600. It is California Civil Code Section 1722(b).
That very powerful law says, in essence, that if you call in for a service call and the cable company requires that you be home to meet the technician (for example, to let the tech into your home or back yard), the cable company must honor your request that the appointment occur within a fixed 4-hour period, and to work with you to determine the day and time when that 4-hour period will start.
According to the law, “If the service connection or repair is not commenced within the specified four-hour period, except for delays caused by unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences beyond the control of the company, the subscriber may bring an action in small claims court against the company for lost wages, expenses actually incurred or other actual damages not exceeding a total of six hundred dollars ($600).”
But realize that this is a two-way street. As a cable subscriber, you have a duty, too. The cable operator has to start the repairs within the specified 4-hour window, but you have the duty to be home during that entire 4-hour period.
The cable operator has an ‘out’ if it can show that unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences did happen, and they made a legitimate effort to let you know. If so, then they don’t owe you any money. However, the larger the cable operator’s technical staff, the less likely they will have convincing a judge that whatever happened was truly unforeseeable or unavoidable.
Also, if you file a complaint with your cable TV franchisor (either the local City or County, or the California PUC, depending on whether your cable operator has a local or state franchise), and the government pursues the cable operator on your behalf, the doors to the courthouse are slammed in your face. Most times, you’ll get a much greater recovery by going to small claims court.
By the way, if the contract you entered into with the cable operator says that you do not have the right to file a court action for missed appointments, do not worry. The same law makes that type of contract provision unenforceable, even if you signed the agreement.
So, how do you get the benefits of Civil Code Section 1722(b)?
First, when you call in to ask for the appointment, ask for a 4-hour window appointment. Be sure to get and write down the name of the CSR who set up the appointment. Also log the date and time you called in to request the appointment.
Second, make sure that you are home for the entire time during that 4-hour window. That is your job under the law if you want to have a chance of collecting for a missed appointment!
Third, if the 4 hours runs and no one has shown up and you have not received a phone call from the cable operator, call in to the cable company and notify them of the missed appointment. Again, get the name of the CSR, and log the date and time you called in. Under the law, the cable operator has to offer you a new 2-hour window appointment (yes, 2 hours the second time around).
Fourth, call the cable operator and ask to speak with a manager. You know the drill: Get the name and log the date and time. Request that the cable operator compensate you under the terms of Civil Code Section 1722(b) for 4-hours of your missed work, plus any expenses you incurred. Know what the dollar numbers are before you call. Expect to be told, thanks, but no thanks by the cable operator. As for a that manager’s fax number so you can fax in a letter.
Fifth, write a letter to the cable operator explaining what happened (they missed the call without an excuse), and ask to be compensated for your lost wages and expenses as required in Civil Code Section 1722(b). Give the exact dollar amount in your letter, and explain how you arrived at that figure. Tell the cable operator that if you don’t hear from them within a reasonable time (say, 10 or 14 days), that you will file a small claims action to recover under the law. Fax the letter, and mail a copy via snail-mail.
Sixth, if the cable operator doesn’t contact you, or if you they do not agree to compensate you as you have requested, then go ahead and file your small claims action. Each county in California has a small claims adviser that can help you through the process. By the way, the filing and service fees you will pay becomes part of your damages, and you will request the judge order the cable company to reimburse you for those fees, too.
Now you know most everything you will need to protect yourself against missed cable TV company appointments. You can read a deeper analysis of the law at the TelecomLawFirm.com website.
And to prove that I practice what I preach, know that I’ve used the law three times over the years to secure full compensation for missed appointments. I was even interviewed once by consumer reporter Alan Mendelson on KCAL-9 TV in Los Angeles explaining how an average person can use the powerful tools given by Civil Code Section 1722(b).
Note: This article, written by a telecommunications attorney licensed in California, is not meant to offer specific legal guidance in any particular matter, or to form an attorney-client relationship. Rather, it is intended to provide general guidance. Check with an attorney for specific guidance in your legal matter. Copyright 2008 Jonathan Kramer, Esq.