In A Pandemic, Altice Optimum Continues To Raise Consumer’s Bills

Cablevison Store in Happauge

Photo: Sonny Espisito

It’s no surprise that one of the most hated companies on Long Island that we used call Cablevision which is now owned by Altice USA, Inc would continue to raise consumer’s bills for their tv, internet and phone services during one of the most tragic periods in modern day history in the United States. At a time when millions are out of work, thousands are facing evictions because they can’t pay their rent, and so many more are facing losing their homes because they are so behind on their mortgages, Altice USA which operate the brands we utilize as Optimum Online, Optimum Voice, and Optimum TV feels you should pay more to watch tv and be besieged by spam phone calls all day and night long. What’s even more insulting and as cold hearted as it gets, is that after losing Optimum services for up to two weeks even when power was restored after Tropical Storm Isaias’, Optimum has the nerve to raise prices on the next bill. Some people actually thought that Optimum may give a credit, instead they got a higher bill.

Now to be very clear, and it’s why we carefully titled the article, many of these bill increases are due to promotions that expire. However, if your paying more money for the same services, that is a rate increase. Your paying more money. Whats even more frustrating is many of these promotional deals were offered for life and then the company just completely breached the agreement. Everyone has different deals, everyone has different rates and in the end, if your paying more money in September than your were in August for the same services, that is a rate increase. Promotions or deals should be extended during a pandemic, not expire. These were promotions that enticed many customers to switch from other services to Optimum and now that they got you, they hit you hard.  Especially after such a such a large overall increase at the start of 2020. Optimum’s bill increases through expired promotions like Internet speeds or deals on other services is a very sneaky way to raise bills without calling it a rate increase.

In February, as the pandemic was still in its early stages, and most of us were not even aware that it was kindling, Optimum had a very large rate increase across the board ranging from 20 to 30 dollars depending on what services you had. Was this based on looking ahead by the company or was it just coincidental? While there has been no over all rate increase again so far since February, that we know off, the deals and promotions that many people were sold on, and even enticed to switch too from Verizon are all now expiring causing for some, huge increases in their bills. This is a somewhat  hidden and very sneaky increase that catches so many by surprise. For many like myself, my bill went from paying $168 a month in January to $201 in August without any change in service.

So many people on Long Island who have lost their jobs are suffering miserably. There are thousands of families who can barely buy enough food to feed their families. Yet, Optimum has no qualms about raising the prices for their services for these people. And if you can’t pay the bill, service is turned off. Yet rival communication providers and services such as Comcast, Charter, Verizon, Google, T-Mobile and Sprint signed a pledge to keep they customers connected even if they couldn’t pay for at least 60 more days and possibly more. (1)

Two days ago, I took my mother to an Optimum store in Port Jefferson to return a cable box she no longer uses. We had to wait two hours before we were allowed to enter the store. When my number was finally called (they use a phone text system) I walked into a building with only a couple of clerks. Next to the window that I was returning the box too was an older woman in tears. I could not help but overhearing the conversation because it was very dramatic. Optimum (Altice) had turned of the woman’s service because she failed to pay the bill. They also wanted a  large fee to turn her services back on plus of course all money she owed the, The woman was pleading her case that she had lost her job and could not pay the fee. None of it seemed to matter to the clerk.

As I left, I noticed people just lying on the ground waiting for hours to return equipment that they did not want to continue to be charged for even though they had already had their services turned off. We are in the middle of a depression and here is a multi million dollar company being as cut throat as a company could get to the people who have paid for their services for years . Many of them had been paying Optimum for 50 years, going back to when the company was just called Cablevision.

While some would argue that Optimum’s main rival Verizon is no better, just imagine what Optimum would be charging for their services if there was no rival. There was a time when Optimum had no rivals for cable TV on Long Island. I remember how those bills went up constantly. The arrival of Direct TV and then Verizon helped slow down the Optimum (Cablevision) rate increases for those areas that had access to Verizon. My mother who lives in Bellport and has  no access to Verizon Fios pays a much higher Optimum bill with just the bare minimum services than someone who lives in an area served by Fios such as myself who pays a much lower bill with better Optimum services.

For years I fought with Optimum over my rate increases. I did pit them against Verizon and even switched services a few times when Verizon would give me such a better rate to switch. I would argue with Optimum that as soon as I left, and switch to Verizon, they would call me back and then offer me that low rate that they refused to give me while I was still with them. Of course that’s exactly what would happen. After being with Verizon for a month, Optimum would have their specialist call me an offer me an incredible deal to get me back. They would even offer to pay any penalties that Verizon would charge me for quitting the contract. It would actually cost Optimum more money to lose the customer and have to fight to get them back then if they had just not raised the customers original rates.

Optimum’s new play in combating customers who want to negotiate a better price is to make it impossible to get a customer service agent on the phone. They will keep you waiting for hours to speak to a customer service agent, while you are constantly directed to go to their website to take care of your problem online. They blame it all on cutbacks due to Covid-19 which is a bit ironic. However, their website offers no live chats and the only way to contact a customer service representative is by messaging. Good Luck trying to present your case in a message.

I understand the cost of business, and that companies have to pass on their higher cost of business to their customers. But it should be done at a reasonable rate of increase. However Optimum has never done it in my opinion at a reasonable rate, it has always been at an incredible greedy rate. There decision to increase bills for customers during a pandemic when so many people are hurting bad, defines the ultimate form of greed. The way that they are doing it through promotions that expire shields them from the press in a way because its less noticed.  Never has a company that serves Long Island and New York City cared so little about the people that they serve. They will promise you they will never raise your rates if you agree to not change to Verizon or cut the chord and then break that promise a year later. Never has there been such a hated company by consumers than Optimum ….with the possible exception of PSEG….but that’s a whole other story.

(1) Forbes 

One Response

  1. Jim Flynn September 4, 2020
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