CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia regulators fined Suddenlink Communications $2.2 million on Wednesday and ordered it to locate a call center in the state following customer complaints about the quality of service.
The Public Service Commission opened an investigation last year. Suddenlink, owned by New York-based Altice, provides cable TV, internet and telephone service throughout much of West Virginia and has 133,000 cable customers in the state.
The PSC found that Suddenlink ignored thousands of customer complaints, reduced the number of full-time employees, intentionally reduced its maintenance work and budget and, changed its method of communicating with customers.
In a statement, the commission ordered Suddenlink to notify it within 90 days detailing its expected location and the anticipated date the call center will open. The commission said it reserved the right to impose additional penalties.
“Suddenlink’s conduct and performance with respect to its operations in West Virginia have been nothing short of egregious,” PSC chairman Charlotte Lane said in the statement. “There is no excuse for its conduct except to increase its bottom line, doing so with a blatant disregard for its subscribers. Suddenlink should be penalized for its actions.”
The Kanawha County Commission, which filed to intervene as a party in the PSC’s investigation, said the final order requires that Suddenlink apply the fine as credits on customers’ bills.
“As we learned during the pandemic, reliable internet, and cable service is an absolute necessity,” commission President Kent Carper said in a statement. “Today’s order goes a long way to making sure Suddenlink takes its customers seriously.”
Lane met with Suddenlink representatives last year about more than 1,900 complaints the agency received about the company’s service. Among the complaints were service restoration delays, billing errors, customers being unable to place orders for service or contact workers over their service status.
After Lane directed Suddenlink to provide a correction plan within 30 days, Suddenlink replied with a letter that did not contain a correction plan or detail what steps the company has taken to improve cable TV service.
In its response to the PSC’s query, Altice said that it has resolved nearly all of the customer complaints cited by the agency, and that in many instances it issued credits “for customer inconvenience.”
Suddenlink said in a statement Wednesday that it has cooperated with the PSC, is reviewing the latest order and that it shares the goal of high-quality service and positive customer experiences.
“We have made and continue to make substantial investments in our network and customer support that are resulting in significant improvements in performance,” Suddenlink said.
Altice has more than 5 million residential and business customers in 21 states through its Suddenlink and Optimum brands.