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Charter Spectrum Will Only Talk to Theresa Peartree’s Dead Ex-Husband About Her Account

Phillip Dampier February 9, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Editorial & Site News 8 Comments

He’s dead. Death notice for Richard Peartree published in the Democrat & Chronicle on Oct. 13, 1992.

Charter Communications’ inability to exercise common sense judgment in helping their customers is demonstrated once again by what we call: The Case of Mrs. Peartree and Her Curious Cable Bill. 

Theresa Peartree, a retiree living in Rochester, N.Y., and a customer of “the cable company” under its various names for more than 30 years, has a problem.

Spectrum won’t talk to her. About anything.

Peartree called the cable company to ask why her bill has increased a few dollars a month starting last fall. Spectrum effectively told her it’s none of her business because the account is in the name of her ex-husband, who died in 1992.

Time Warner Cable and Greater Rochester Cablevision — the former names of what today is Spectrum, understood Peartree’s situation and were willing to talk to her about her account, although nobody bothered to suggest she change the name on the account along the way. Spectrum will not talk to her, until she obtains a certified copy of her ex-husband’s death certificate and walk it down to the company’s notoriously overpacked customer service center on Mt. Hope Avenue in the city. Peartree is 89 years old and walks with a cane.

Spectrum’s customer service told Peartree it was easy to get a copy of a death certificate because “they’re a public record.” But most Spectrum customer service representatives are not attorneys or legislators, because if they were, they would have realized the advice they were giving about death certificates in New York was dead wrong.

So Mrs. Peartree and Spectrum are at an impasse. She took her plight to a local talk radio show and finally to David Andreatta, a feisty and occasionally exasperated columnist for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, where he usually covers the insanity of local and state politics.

He visited with Peartree and listened in on the legal advice being given by the cable company’s call center employee.

Andreatta knows Spectrum’s claim that death certificates are public records was not quite right:

No, they’re not. In New York, they’re semi-public. If the deceased person has been dead for 50 years, his or her death certificate is public record. If not, only spouses, parents, children or siblings of the deceased are entitled to the death certificate. Exes don’t count.

Others eligible to obtain a death certificate under the law are those with a medical need, a documented lawful claim to receive a benefit or a court order from a state judge.

Peartree has none of those. Her declaration that, “TV is my life,” is a metaphor. Her cable isn’t a “medical need” and her desire to learn why she’s being charged $4 a month more isn’t a “benefit.”

Peartree (Photo courtesy of: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle/Shawn Dowd)

In short, Peartree is trapped by Spectrum. She cannot even close her account because they won’t talk to her. The only chance she has, assuming the public shaming of Spectrum proves ineffective in getting them to budge, is to present herself as a hardship case at the Monroe County Office of Vital Records in hopes of getting them to produce a copy.

But in Monroe County, where the county government prides itself on holding the line on the property taxes (already among the highest in the country) but makes up the difference by charging astronomical fees for almost any county service, that photocopy will cost her $40 — ten times the amount her bill increased last fall.

“They take my money every month,” she told Andreatta, showing him her checkbook with hers being the only name on the account. “They take my money, but they won’t answer my questions.”

“I know they say you can’t believe everything you read in the newspapers, Spectrum, but believe this: Richard is dead and the house you think is his isn’t his,” Andreatta wrote. “It would take a few minutes for your customer service rep to transfer the account in Richard’s name to Peartree’s and tell her why her bill rises $4 a month.”

But so far they won’t. But we can at least answer her question. The additional fees are the result of an increase in Spectrum’s bill padding Broadcast TV Surcharge ripoff and a more recent rate increase on certain cable equipment rental fees.

Andreatta is somehow not surprised:

Ever since Time Warner was rebranded as Spectrum, more readers have asked me to write about their problems with the cable TV and internet provider than any other topic.

I’ve always declined, mostly because their problems were so generic. Their internet was slow. They didn’t want to pay for channels they didn’t watch. That four-hour window for home service.

It was, like, join the club. Cable companies by any name have always been a racket, regularly ranking below airlines, banks and drug makers in opinion polls. What could I do about it?

Currently there are 8 comments on this Article:

  1. Ben says:

    Seems like there is an easy solution. Order new service in her name. If they say there is already service to the house inform them that was a former resident who no longer lives at that address. Then provide whatever proof that the house or lease is in her name.
    Any bills for the old service, write deceased on them and return them. They aren’t her bills according to the cable company, so she has no obligation to close the account or pay them. Since this was an ex-husband there should be no connection to her credit.

    • Psychic99 says:

      Or just stop paying the bill. I’m sure that would get their attention much faster. If they are taking the stance it is in a deceased person’s account, I am sure probate was settled many years ago an ergo there is nothing to attach to.

      I can’t believe that people put up with this stuff. I use CC for everything, and if a vendor gives me a whiff of crap I issue a chargeback on them– I don’t even waste my time. I call once, they tell me to pound salt I issue a chargeback.

      If they really irritate me I also file a BBB report. They hate those. I just did that to Sling TV last month. Apparently, even if you cancel the account they still keep it active and won’t disable it. So I get a charge for $6 for a movie from who knows where (not even in the same state), and they tell me they can’t remove the account or CC and owe the money.

      Bollicks, BBB involved, CC removed in a day, CC issues chargeback and no muss. So now there is no way for them to bill me for someone hacking into the account, and I don’t have to pay a dime for their stupid system.

    • EJ says:

      You might have something there Ben. Just let it go delinquent and only his credit will be affected or any hacker using his name will be affected (even better!!!).

  2. Willie says:

    There’s a lot she could be doing to get Spectrum to listen to her, but she’s an old woman. Spectrum shouldn’t expect her to jump through hoops to get her concerns addressed. They should be proactive and do everything they can to help her. This is what apathy and multilevel tiers of CS gets you. No one in that company is in any position to help her.

  3. jeff says:

    there is more than 2 genders now
    she can get her answers by saying she is her husband.

    oh yeah they better make sure they use the correct pronoun.

  4. fred says:

    With the current state of identity theft, it is very hard to conduct business when the account is not in your name. Even with power attorney which is filed with the court, I find it hard – no one accepts it. They all want you to use their form which at this point it is beyond my mother’s capabilities to sign. Can’t do anything with Social security, financial institutions, IRS etc.

    Didn’t have a problem canceling her TW account which was in my father’s name. Maybe she just needs to get a man to call and say he is her ex. Of course, him being dead may cause a problem.

    I agree she should stop paying the bill, she is not responsible for a dead ex liabilities although I would also consult a lawyer since she is still living in the house. I wonder who’s name that is in? I am sure Spectrum will come around eventually.

    • They did, within hours of the story being published. This is the usual way these things are resolved. When the company hits the news, someone gets on it and does what it takes. It’s just too bad frontline reps are not given the authority to manage similar solutions, and that does not mean just taking someone’s word for it. They could have easily logged into the county’s real property database and seen the guy no longer owned the property because deceased individuals are stricken from the records. They would see her name at that address and that would be adequate evidence.

      I agree that identity theft scams are a problem and that bluffing your way through a call like this could be problematic, except she only called to ask a question, not shut off her service. So perhaps certain account functions might incorporate more security than others.

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