Turning the tables on Verizon and other cable buccaneers
By Michael R. Shannon
Charles Murray's new book — By The People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission —urges conservatives to embrace civil disobedience, but with a difference: We won't loot CVS stores.
In the face of all–pervasive government demanding we obey picayune regulations, Murray urges us to: "…withhold that compliance through systematic civil disobedience. Not for all regulations, but for the pointless, stupid and tyrannical ones."
The worst offenders include the "Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission." One example of over–reach is the DC Good Samaritan who rescued a duckling. Being unable to place the baby with nearby woodland creatures, he took it home so it wouldn't die a swift death.
The Washington Post reports two months later "Nibbles" was following his owner around like a dog and starring in videos. That's when animal control functionaries got wind of the Kidnapping of the Century and made the Samaritan release a thoroughly domesticated duck into the wild.
Murray's solution is to stop following stupid rules and exploit Big Government's weakness: "…its enforcement capabilities are far inferior to its expansive mandate." If Refusnik Americans force Big Regulation to take them to court — Murray proposes a national legal defense fund — the time, money and effort expended in putting down thousands of tiny rebellions will force bureaucracy to retreat.
It's a fine idea and I hope the Koch Brothers take his call, but it's too useful to limit to government. Beleaguered citizens can use a similar technique to take on impervious and imperious companies perpetrating abuses in the private sector.
I'm talking about you Verizon.
The last time I renewed my indenture with the cable company I called both bands of cutthroats: Verizon and Comcast. Still smarting from Verizon's removal of college football from our package, I didn't want a repeat.
My specifications included college football, NFL Network, Rugby and cycling be included in the deal. Verizon packages are based on the number and quality of channels. First is Entropy that only contains PBS and CSPAN. This is followed in order of increasing expense by: Extreme, Ultimate and Excruciating (where you have every channel known to man and can watch real–time drone video of Hellfire missile strikes).
I re–upped for two years after securing my preferred channels.
Last week in the middle of the first round of the Rugby World Cup Championship the sport disappeared. I called Verizon and had the following conversation:
All the flexibility is on Verizon's side and all the responsibility is on our side. These cable agreements are so unfair contracts specifically prohibit participation in class–action suits.
Taking Murray's advice, cable subscribers can fight back, not by being sued, but by suing in small claims court. Small claims is the great leveler of jurisprudence. You don't need a lawyer and judges are often very sympathetic to plaintiffs. The term to use with the judge is "unconscionability." This is applied to contracts where one of the parties involved is at a great disadvantage, cable agreements and Chinese organ donors being prime examples.
Small claims commonly awards three times actual damages, but no pain and suffering. Hours spent watching "Call the Midwife," with your wife, don't count. Here's a sample calculation: Six months remain on your contract when Verizon arbitrarily removes a favorite channel without compensation (Univision doesn't count either). Six months of $75.00 cable bills = $450 X 3 = $1,350.00.
Your case is unlikely to go to court because Verizon's lawyers are expensive. Instead you'll get a call from a nice man asking what the company can do to make you happy enough to drop the suit.
The tables have turned. Either demand the return of your channels for free or demand to be released from the contract and receive a check to cover a refund for every month where you paid for what you weren't getting, plus the cost of filing the suit.
If enough outraged customers file the expense, even for Verizon, would be astronomical. Management may decide it's cheaper to be honorable.
Cable companies impose draconian contracts because consumers don't fight back. Besides small claims court you can contact your city and state consumer affairs department, your local legislator and the Better Business Bureau to complain about abusive business practices.
Consumers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at mandate.mmpr (at) gmail.com. He is also the author of Conservative Christian's Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!).