PRINCETON — More than a dozen speakers voiced their complaints about Suddenlink Communications before members of the state Public Service Commission (PSC) during a public hearing Tuesday night in Princeton.
Charlotte Lane, PSC Chair, said the hearings are related to complaints about the company that provides internet, TV and telephone services in the state, including in the Princeton area.
“We have received more than 2,000 customer complaints since 2019,” she told a crowd that had gathered in the conference room of the Princeton Parks and Recreation Center.
Because of those complaints, the PSC announced in July that it was ordering Suddenlink Communications to show why it should not be required to take specific remedial steps to improve service to customers and why the commission should not impose penalties as authorized by state law.
Lane had directed Suddenlink to provide the commission with a correction plan in May. Suddenlink sent a letter to Lane on June 7 that contained neither a correction plan nor details of the steps that Suddenlink has taken to improve cable television service.
“Suddenlink’s response to our request for a corrective plan to its disastrous customer service problems was completely inadequate,” Lane said at that time.
Two public hearings also were announced in the case, but they were slated for Beckley and Charleston. No hearing was set for Princeton where a large number of customers are served by Suddenlink, but the PSC later added Princeton.
Intervenors in the case include the Commission’s Consumer Advocate Division; the cities of Beckley, Charleston and Elkins; and the Kanawha County Commission. The city of Princeton has not yet filed as an intervenor in the case.
Lane was joined by PSC Commissioner Bill Raney, a Princeton native, as well PSC legal counsel and representatives from Suddenlink.
Fourteen speakers told the commissioners they had experienced numerous problems with Suddenlink, including poor customer service, dropped phone calls, inadequate TV service, billing and payment issues, rising costs and unfair marketing practices.
But one of the most frequent complaints related to the loss of a local Suddenlink office in Princeton, which closed its doors at the beginning of the pandemic last year and did not reopen.
“You have no presence here,” Robert Edwards told the Suddenlink representatives. “Either fix it or get out.”
Edwards, like most of the speakers, also complained about difficulty in getting work done or talking to someone on the phone he can understand.
“Your customer service stinks,” he said. “We had a lot better customer service when we had a local office.”
Several who have landline phones with Suddenlink said calls are often dropped.
“I got rid of the phone because of dropped calls,” said Susan Arnold, who also said the TV service will suddenly stop with a message the customer is not authorized to receive the programming.
“You can’t use the TV at all,” she said, until a process is gone though to reboot it.
James Taylor said it is frustrating to be watching West Virginia University football and the picture is gone.
“It freezes while you are watching it,” he said, and when it comes back on the sound is not synchronized.
Taylor also complained about the cost of the service, which keeps rising, with his bill right at $200 a month.
He said he called and tried to lower his bill and thought he had been successful.
“It went from $200 to $199,” he said. “You can’t get any answers from them.”
Taylor also said having no office here “really hurt.”
“I wish you would get your act together and not lie to customers,” he said of promises not fulfilled.
JoAnna Fredeking said it goes back to the old saying about “if it sounds too good to be true, it is.”
She said she switched services based on what “looked like a good deal to me.”
But “terrible service” on her landline phone and TV issues began and it impacted her security system.
Fredeking said the internet service is “wonderful,” and she hates to lose it, but she does not want a phone service that has issues which may take “hours and days to get resolved.”
Several speakers also complained about billing and payment problems with checks sent in but not processed soon enough.
Nigel Maxey said his service was cut off because they said his bill had not been paid although he had paid by checks and when he called to resolve the issue and get reconnected he was charged three separate reconnection fees in one day.
“That is just ridiculous,” he said. “They have no control over what they are doing in customer service.”
The checks eventually cleared and he got credit for them, but “every element of their customer service is terrible.”
Richard Watts brought in Suddenlink equipment that he returned to the Suddenlink representative at the hearing, taking them out and keeping the bag he brought them in.
“I will keep the trash bag,” he said. “It’s the most valuable thing in the pile.”
Watts said he had experienced many of the same problems other speakers had voiced and said the Mercer County Commission should not renew the company’s franchise in the county.
He said the company provides “horrible” service in West Virginia.
Peggy Wells read a letter written by a customer, Paul Curto, who could not attend the hearing.
Curto said in the letter his phone service was so bad that when his wife died in a nursing home in the middle of the night they could not reach him to tell him.
They had to call is son in Oak Hill to let him know.
“Suddenlink should be held responsible and accountable,” he said, also adding to the chorus of complaints about not having a local office.
“Nice people worked in that office,” he said.
Princeton City Councilman Joe Allen also said the company has “poor customer service” and the agents take advantage of customers by offering deals that only see the price keep rising.
When he tried to lower his $216 a month bill, he said he thought he done that when he was told the cost would then not go up for a year.
He ended up with fewer channels than what he was told and paying $13.75 more a month than when he started.
Carolyn Hamilton said Suddenlink advertises no contract but then the price keeps going up.
“You may be better off with a contract,” she said.
Lane said anyone who did not want to participate in the hearing can make their thoughts known to the commission by sending a letter to the commission at 201 Brooks Street, Charleston, W.V. 25301 or they can submit a comment on the commission’s website.
“There is no statutory deadline on this case,” Hall said. “If people are unable to attend any of the public comment hearings, they can always either send a letter to the commission or they can file a formal comment on our website.”
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com