By Associated Press - Thursday, February 20, 2020

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Time Warner Cable will pay $18.8 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed it misled more than 170,000 California customers who paid for high-speed internet service that they didn’t receive, prosecutors said Thursday.

Eligible customers will receive about $16.9 million in refunds in credits or free service, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said.

The district attorneys of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties accused Time Warner Cable of unfair business practices. Their lawsuit alleged that beginning in 2013, Time Warner Cable used misleading advertising to lure customers into paying for higher-end internet service.

“Some customers were issued outdated modems, making it impossible for them to receive the higher bandwidth they purchased. Others paid for higher internet speeds that Time Warner’s infrastructure could not deliver,” Los Angeles County prosecutors said in a statement.

Internet customers who couldn’t get the service they paid for will receive a one-time credit within 60 days, authorities said. Customers who received outdated modems will get a $90 credit, while those who received the modem and also paid for higher internet speeds will get a $180 credit, the statement said.

In addition, Time Warner Cable will offer all California internet customers a choice of two free services. Those who also subscribe to cable TV will be offered three free months of Showtime unless they already subscribe to the channel. Internet-only customers will be offered one free month of an entertainment streaming package called Spectrum Choice.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge approved the deal on Feb. 14.

Charter Communications, also known as Charter Spectrum, bought Time Warner Cable in 2016.

Under the settlement, Charter agreed to a ban on advertising internet speeds “it knows or should know it cannot consistently deliver during peak hours,” according to the Los Angeles district attorney’s statement.

Charter Communications settled a similar lawsuit with the New York state attorney general in December 2018 for $174.2 million. It included $62.5 million in refunds to some 700,000 customers. That lawsuit alleged the company delivered internet speeds that were up to 80 percent slower than advertised.

In a statement, Charter Communications said it didn’t acknowledge any liability in the California settlement. The company said the allegations involved advertising practices that occurred before it bought Time Warner Cable.

“Charter has made and continues to make, substantial investments enhancing internet service across the state including raising entry-level speeds of our flagship service to 200Mbps and launching Spectrum Internet Gig,” the statement said. “We look forward to continue providing the best internet, TV, mobile and voice products and services to our California customers.”

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