Charter to Pay $19 Million For Tricking Customers Into Switching

Charter Communications got slapped with a major fine to the tune of $19.2 million dollars to be paid out to Windstream for their unethical advertising they did back in 2019 that specifically targeted Windstream customers.

This snail mail ad campaign was deemed false and intentionally misleading to the current Windstream customers it was sent to at the time. It capitalized on Windstream’s bankruptcy filing that mislead customers into believing that their current internet provider, Windstream was going out of business soon. This caused a mass exodus of Windstream customers switching to Charter Spectrum because they truly believed they’d wake up one morning and be shut off of all their Windstream services: TV, internet and home phone.

Charter’s Snail Mail Letters

You might be wondering how Charter could possibly trick Windstream’s own customers that they would soon be left without service, but the facts to come out of this case was pretty shocking how creative Charter was with their mailings. 

The letters came to Windstream customers in envelopes with Windstream’s brand colors mimicking the bright pink and purple color scheme Windstream used in their own advertising. The envelope alone was designed so simularly to confuse unsuspecting customers into opening the mail. Upon opening it, Windstream customers were shocked to find these exact words:

“Windstream Customers,

Don’t Risk Losing Your Internet and TV Services.

Windstream has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which means uncertainty. Will they be able to provide the Internet and TV services you rely on in the future? To ensure you are not left without vital Internet and TV services, switch to Spectrum. With a network built for the future, Spectrum is here for the long haul.”

It’s no wonder Windstream customers got scared and switch. Most people don’t know that a chapter 11 bankruptcy filing doesn’t necessarily mean that the business is going out of business. Either way what Spectrum did was unethical and sleezy at best. 

Windstream Granted A Fix At Charter’s Exepense

In May 2019, the bankruptcy court involved issued a preliminary injunction against Charter and further authorized Windstream to attempt to right this wrong by Charter at Charter’s expense. Windstream sent a follow up letter to their effected customers that specifically stated that “a federal court has now ruled that the advertisement sent to you by a competitor was untrue and improper.” By the time these letters were drafted up and sent out the damage from Charter’s scare tactics and false advertisements had already been done.

Windstream estimates that approximately 1,386 customers cancelled their Windstream services as a direct result of Charter’s false direct mail advertisements. While that doesn’t sound like a lot of customers, it adds up to a big chunk of change for a smaller internet provider.

This outrageous lack of ethics is a clear view of the big internet provider stepping all over the little internet provider. Charter Spectrum’s coverage area is much wider than Windstream’s and they have many more subscribers. Spectrum is available in 41 states and has 31 million customers while Windstream is available in 18 states and has about 1.1 million internet customers.

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