Vermont Public Service Board

Cable Television

Section 8.340 - Billing Practices

8.340 Billing Practices.

8.341 Notification of billing practices.

(A) Every cable television company shall notify each of its subscribers, in writing, of its billing practices and payment requirements. The notice shall describe, at a minimum, billing procedures (including payment requirements to avoid discontinuance of service, e.g., payment due dates), late charges, advance billing options, if any, procedures to be followed in billing disputes, and credit to be given for service outages.

(B) Notice shall be given as follows:

  1. to new subscribers, at the time of initial installation;
  2. to all subscribers, whenever there is a change in the company's billing practices or payment requirements; and
  3. to all subscribers at least annually.
(C) Copies of the company's billing practices and payment requirements shall be filed with the Board and the Department and in the company's business office and shall be given or sent to a subscriber upon request.

8.342 Bill format.

(A) Twice a year, at six month intervals, each subscriber shall receive a bill or other statement that shall itemize each service or piece of equipment for which the subscriber is charged. If a company bills its subscribers less than twice a year then each bill shall contain such itemization.

(B) Every bill shall include the telephone number of the company and the toll-free subscriber assistance number of the Department of Public Service. The bill shall include a statement that the company should be called first for problem resolution.

(C) Any returned check charge imposed by such company shall be reasonably related to the company's actual cost of processing returned checks, including bank charges, if any.

(D) The company's billing practices shall conform to the Board's Rule 3.400, as amended.

8.343 Credit for service outage.

(A) In the event of a subscriber service disruption for more than twenty-four (24) consecutive hours, the cable company shall credit the subscribers affected for the total period of the disruption in an amount proportionate to their regular monthly service charge.

(B) Each subscriber so affected must notify the cable company of the disruption unless there is a system-wide disruption or that subscriber's disruption is otherwise known or should have been known to the cable company.

(C) The disruption period shall not begin until the disruption is reported to the cable company, personally, by telephone or in writing, or otherwise is known or should have been known to the cable company. Receipt of such notice by the cable company, which includes notification to an answering service, company employee, etc., shall cause the disruption period to commence.

(D) Once the disruption period is known by the cable company to exist, for a particular subscriber, the subscriber's credit shall be automatic, and shall require no further request on the part of the affected subscriber.

(E) Disruptions reported after the fact shall not be eligible for a refund.

(F) The minimum credit shall be equal to the company's daily billing for the first twenty-four hour period and each whole or portion of a twenty-four hour period during which a service outage continues. The daily billing is the customer's monthly billing for the services affected divided by the number of days in the month which the company uses to compute its bills.

(G) A cable television company shall conduct routine maintenance of its system at hours during which the least amount of subscriber service interruption shall occur, when practicable. The company shall make a reasonable effort to notify subscribers, in advance, of any scheduled service outages for purposes including, but not limited to, equipment repair or replacement, system upgrade, or rebuild which may interfere with service.

8.344 Subscriber and converter deposits. The provisions of Rule 3.200, as amended, apply to deposits required to be made before service is provided. In addition, if a cable operator supplies a converter or other auxiliary equipment to a subscriber's receiving equipment, it may not require a deposit exceeding the replacement cost, less salvage, of like equipment, to be applied so far as necessary to replacement or repair of the equipment resulting from subscriber abuse. If so applied, the company may require that an additional deposit be paid so as to restore the deposit to its original amount.

8.345 Billing disputes.

(A) Any subscriber shall have 45 days from the payment due date contained in the subscriber's bill in which to register a complaint with a company with respect to any billing error or dispute. A billing complaint may be registered in person at the company's business office, by telephone, or by mail. The company shall promptly investigate the billing complaint, shall provide an initial response to the subscriber not later than three business days after receipt thereof, and shall provide a written proposal for the disposition of the complaint to the subscriber not later than 15 business days following the company's receipt of the complaint.

(B) The subscriber, after receiving the company's proposed disposition of the complaint, shall have ten days to contest the disposition and may present the company with additional information concerning the complaint. In the event the subscriber contests the proposed disposition, the company shall review any additional information, if provided, and shall notify the subscriber of the company's final disposition within 15 business days of notification of contest by the customer.

(C) No company may effect termination of service to the subscriber for non-payment of disputed bills during the pendency of any billing complaint, provided the subscriber pays current and undisputed bill amounts during the pendency of the complaint.

(D) If a subscriber uses this provision of this Rule to avoid paying proper bills by means of repetitive claims of dispute of each new bill, the company may petition the Board for permission to disconnect such a subscriber.

(E) The Board, upon the written request of the subscriber, may review the company's disposition of a billing complaint in accordance with such procedures as the Board shall prescribe and make such orders as the Board deems reasonable and necessary to finally resolve the complaint.

8.346 Disconnection.

(A) The provisions of Rule 3.400, as amended, shall apply, as well as the following rules.

(B) No cable company may disconnect a subscriber's service except for one of the following reasons:

  1. at the request of the subscriber;
  2. because the subscriber without the company's approval tapped the system to provide cable service or additional service to himself, or service to different or additional equipment or has otherwise tampered with the company's facilities;
  3. because the subscriber made fraudulent representations regarding the use of the service within the subscriber's premises;
  4. because the subscriber so operates or connects his equipment as to cause disturbing effects on the service of other subscribers or the company's equipment or facilities;
  5. to prevent a hazard to persons or property resulting from the condition of the installation or the subscriber's equipment;
  6. because the subscriber refuses reasonable access to his premises to company representatives who must have such access to make required inspections or tests or to make adjustments to or service equipment or to legally remove the company's property or to otherwise comply with conditions of the company's rules and regulations;
  7. because customer-installed equipment is causing signal leakage in violation of federal or state regulations;
  8. for non-payment as otherwise provided in this Rule.
(C) For reasons 4, 5, and 7, above, the company may disconnect without prior notice to the customer, but must leave written notice at the customer's premises explaining why service was terminated and what must be done to have it restored.

(D) Notice of service discontinuance shall clearly state the reason and the action on the part of the subscriber necessary to avoid discontinuance.

(E) No cable television company shall disconnect service for non-payment or as otherwise provided in this rule (except by subscriber request) on a weekend, public holiday, a day when the office of the company is not open for business, or the day before any of the days above.

(F) When a company representative is at a subscriber's residence or place of business to disconnect service and the subscriber, at that time, pays the amount in arrears in lieu of disconnection, the company may add a reasonable collection charge to the subscriber's bill, provided all other applicable provisions of this section have been followed.

(G) Receipt of a subsequently dishonored instrument from a subscriber in response to a notice of discontinuance shall not constitute payment, and a cable company need not go through another Rule 3.400 disconnect notice cycle. The cable company may disconnect on a minimum four (4) day notice that the instrument was dishonored.

(H) This section (pertaining to disconnection and notice of disconnection) does not apply to any person who is not an actual subscriber or who has not requested service, in which case no notice of any kind is required.

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