Hate TV customer service? So does your senator

Hate TV customer service? So does your senator
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Senators hate dealing with their TV customer service representatives as much as the U.S. public. 

The largest names in the cable and satellite industry on Thursday received a shellacking from senators, who hauled executives before Congress to testify about their service policies and billing practices. 


Much of the ire from senators focused on Charter and Time Warner Cable, which were labeled in a new Senate report as the worst at tracking overcharges or giving their customers refunds.  

"If you are overcharged and you find out about it you ought to make them good. That is what other businesses do," said Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Candymakers meet virtually with lawmakers for annual fly-in, discuss Halloween safety Democrats look past Election Day in Barrett fight  MORE (R-Ohio), who leads the Homeland Security subcommittee on Investigations. 

The report noted that in the first four months of 2016, Time Warner over-billed U.S. customers an estimated $639,000. Charter says that each month it overcharges customers at least $442,000.

Executives from Comcast, DirecTV, Dish and Charter all testified, with a number of executives admitting their customer service polices have been subpar in the past.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Harris walks fine line on Barrett as election nears Fox's Bongino, MSNBC's McCaskill trade blows over Trump ride: 'You epic piece of garbage' MORE (D-Mo.) noted that numerous surveys have found the industry is the most disliked in the United States. She starkly noted that "we hate dealing with the cable and satellite companies."

During the hearing, she read from the transcript of a call between her and a customer service representative with her TV provider. After 15 minutes of frustration, she said she eventually got an $8 overcharge removed. 

"There are so many things about this business model that are asking for customers to be upset," she said.

Some customer service representatives are trained to offer incrementally better deals the more times a customer complains. In crafting the Senate report, McCaskill said she got more insight into the "secret sauce" of dealing with these companies: "Being really mad."

"Will you all make a commitment today to advertise the lowest price available?" she asked to silence from those testifying at one point. 

Charter and Time Warner Cable, which recently merged, committed to implementing new policies. When Time Warner Cable realizes that it has overcharged, it will now automatically give a one-month credit to customers. Charter said it will give a one-year credit for overcharges. 

Billings errors affect only a tiny percentage of TV customers, but they add up to tens of thousands of customers every year. For example, Time Warner Cable's error rate is .07 percent. Charter only began trying to track billing errors last year. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulMichigan Republican isolating after positive coronavirus test GOP Rep. Mike Bost tests positive for COVID-19 Top Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate MORE (R-Ky.) was one of the few defenders in the room. He had the same frustration as others, but questioned whether it is Congress's place to scrutinize the companies. He said the industry's customer satisfaction "still exceeds that of Congress."

"I just think we need to put this hearing in context and not get too carried away," he said, referencing the debate about government debt and entitlement reform.