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  1. #1
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    Corporate Practices Part I

    Here's the scenario:

    You have a roommate. Your roommate orders cable services. You both enjoy watching television, surfing the net, and all the other services the cable corporation offers. The bill is in your roommate's name. Not yours. You are not on his account. Maybe you pay him half of the bill each month or maybe you don't (you pay electric and he pays cable, etc.).

    Eventually, you move out and go your separate ways. You move out as does he.

    You find a place of your own (maybe with a spouse now) and decide to get cable from the same corporation.

    Here's where things get interesting.

    The cable corporation informs you that the final month's bill in your roommate's name was never paid. They know you were roommates because they have skip trace software. Just so we're clear, this is the bill that's dated from when you were living with your old roommate. The corporation politely informs you that the bill isn't specifically your responsibility which means it's not going to go on your credit score nor will they send their Collectors after you (by phone). HOWEVER...

    ... they ARE going to make you pay the old bill if you want their product.

    Their justification for this is since you had access to their services and the services went unpaid they are within their rights to not give you new cable. Even though the old cable was never in your name. Note that they don't need you, specifically, to pay it. You could have your old roommate pay it so that you can get cable at your new place. But they are going to not give you their product until either you or your roommate pay the old bill.

    Topic for debate: would you pay it and do you feel the corporation is justified?

    ---------- Post added at 10:49 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:44 PM ----------

    Oh and two things you should be aware of:

    No. I am not going to tell you which corporation is doing this. Don't bother asking.

    Yes. This is an actual practice that is happening right now in the really real world. It's not something I just made up.

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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric View Post
    Topic for debate: would you pay it and do you feel the corporation is justified?
    If you want their service and there are no other competitors that you are willing to consider, and you can't get your old roomate to pay the bill, yes, I would pay the bill. If there are other companies that offer similar services, go with them.

    Not all cable companies and/or utility companies would do that – hold someone responsible for a bill whose name the account is not under. But, I can understand how some companies may have that policy because there are so many people who share apartments/homes who are not married.

    Is it legally justified? I would say no. But some corporate research would have to be done to confirm that. If you didn’t sign anything and your name is not on any account, I can’t see how they are legally justified.

    Is it worth fighting? Personally, I think it’s important to choose our battles wisely vs. our time and where we want to exert our energy. Some battles are worth fighting if we think we can bring out positive change, some may not be. That’s your call.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    interesting..
    The major problem I have is the violation of privacy (even if it is not the "legal" protected privacy). But if they don't want to give you a product they have every right to do that. If it could be taken to court, then it should be taken off the bill. But if they refuse to give service, then it would never get that far.

    Very interesting problem.

    I would personally pay I think.. .though I would hate it. But then again, I don't have cable, so I suppose I'd only pay if I decided I want cable again.. maybe next football season.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    It's not really a legal issue. Most cable companies are classified as "entertainment companies" rather than utilities. So these cases never make it to court. Any lawyer will tell you that a company can ask for a certain price and deny the consumer their product if they fail to pay that price.

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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    I will go to their competition (if they have) and get the service from them. Is there another company providing the same service in that area?

    They can deny you a service, it is their right, but they can't force you to pay the money or take it to legal court if they want it back. They can't black list you either, since the account was never in your name.

    For this particular company it must be one of the ways they try to get people to pay up the money they owe. That is in any case cheaper than to go to a lawyer.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    I'd only pay it if it was worth the price. It would depend on what the other options were and how much I valued having cable. (I've been without cable for years, hulu and Netflix still let me watch a good deal of network television.)

    But would I feel that the corporation was justified? That's kind of a weird question. I'd consider it bad business: Suppose the "normal" price for the service is X. This means that if you pay X, they get some marginal profit in the amount X-Y, where Y is cost. They want you to pay X+Z. Maybe you'd be willing to pay more than X for cable, but not as much as X+Z. Then instead of making X+Z-Y, or even X-Y, the corporation makes 0.

    Is it "justified"? I don't think you'd have an obligation to pay them X+Z, since their payment agreement was with your friend, and your agreement was with him. You never agreed to any sort of payment with them. If your friend decided to host NFL Monday Night Football every week, would all of his friends also owe this company money? I don't think so.

    But is it "justified"? It's their product. I'm pretty libertarian economically, so I think they can charge whatever they like for their product. I just think it's stupid and not very honest of them to do this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric View Post
    It's not really a legal issue. Most cable companies are classified as "entertainment companies" rather than utilities. So these cases never make it to court. Any lawyer will tell you that a company can ask for a certain price and deny the consumer their product if they fail to pay that price.
    It's not carte blache, though. You couldn't legally charge black customers a different price than white customers, for example.
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  7. #7
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by ZHAVRIC
    It's not really a legal issue. Most cable companies are classified as "entertainment companies" rather than utilities. So these cases never make it to court. Any lawyer will tell you that a company can ask for a certain price and deny the consumer their product if they fail to pay that price.
    Yes, but they can't put on your bill a charge that you are no legally responsible for. If my phone company put on the bill the charges for my mom's phone. I would not be required to pay it.
    Now, could they cancel services? I question if they could do that. I know they have to have some sort of mediation process.

    So, while they can bill you for something you agree to pay. They can't just up and bill me, and cancel my service when I don't pay. I don't think that would stand in court.
    Not that they couldn't find some other legit BS reason to cancel me. (he was late 1min on his bill).


    It all just seems to fall into the gray crack of you aren't required to pay, and they aren't required to give you services.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric View Post
    It's not really a legal issue. Most cable companies are classified as "entertainment companies" rather than utilities. So these cases never make it to court. Any lawyer will tell you that a company can ask for a certain price and deny the consumer their product if they fail to pay that price.
    Cable companies are actually treated as natural monopolies, subject to government regulation and price fixing in order to "serve the greatest number of people at the lowest cost." They are treated exactly like utilities. In fact, this is why they push broadband phone so hard - since satellite service is quickly catching up to compete, the cable companies are trying to make themselves more "utility-like" so they can continue to justify their natural monopoly status. And really, they finished paying for laying all that cable a decade ago, which is the entire reason they were labeled a natural monopoly in the first place (just like Ma Bell). It's just simple corporate/political corruption at its finest.

    To the situation in the OP, it's pretty messed up that they not only assume you used their services, but that they'd deny you service for a bill not even in your name. How do they know that you actually watched any cable? It could very well be that you stood against television of any kind, and your roommate just had to have cable so he paid for it himself. Without your name on the bill, they shouldn't even know that you two were roommates. And further, since there are rarely any choices amongst cable companies in any given area, this type of business practice is the worst type of unethical monopolistic behavior - "Pay us this bill that your roommate didn't pay, or you cannot get cable." That's just... brazen.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric View Post
    ... they ARE going to make you pay the old bill if you want their product.

    Their justification for this is since you had access to their services and the services went unpaid they are within their rights to not give you new cable. Even though the old cable was never in your name...You could have your old roommate pay it so that you can get cable at your new place. But they are going to not give you their product until either you or your roommate pay the old bill.

    would you pay it and do you feel the corporation is justified?
    No, I so would not pay for it. Here's why:

    The bill is not in my name. Sure, the company knows I used the cable as well, but legally (as far as my knowledge in finances goes) they cannot make me pay because the bill is not officially in my name. If I felt generous, I could pay it. But they cannot make me. I would get my roommate to pay the bill.

    I think the corporation may have a little justification behind them on this, but then again, what can they do if I don't pay it. Sure, I won't get their service, but I can always just switch companies. They don't need me to survive. They've got plenty of other customers.
    Sorry, got off topic. Back to justification.
    It makes sense to use their excuse. I did have access to the cable. Yet, they shouldn't be barking at me. They should be barking at my roommate. The bill is in his name, so I would think he would be the most appropriate and logical choice for the billpaying. If he refused to pay, then I would understand them asking me for the money. Though, they still wouldn't get it.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Also, consider that the old roommate's account (and subsequent credit) IS a privacy issue. They not only were not allowed to tell me he didn't pay it... but there is no legal way for me to verify that he didn't pay it. They could easily double dip in this way.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Zhavric View Post
    Their justification for this is since you had access to their services and the services went unpaid they are within their rights to not give you new cable. Even though the old cable was never in your name. Note that they don't need you, specifically, to pay it. You could have your old roommate pay it so that you can get cable at your new place. But they are going to not give you their product until either you or your roommate pay the old bill.

    Topic for debate: would you pay it and do you feel the corporation is justified?
    Yes, they are justified. As a private company, the corporation is entitled to deny service to anyone they please (assuming they don't violate existing discrimination laws). I might think differently if we were talking about a company providing "basic" goods (e.g. water, electricity, or even Internet), in which case there could be a moral argument for imposing a universal service obligation on such companies. But cable TV is non-essential and you can easily find substitutes for it.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Trendem View Post
    I might think differently if we were talking about a company providing "basic" goods (e.g. water, electricity, or even Internet), in which case there could be a moral argument for imposing a universal service obligation on such companies.
    Why internet?
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Trendem View Post
    Yes, they are justified. As a private company, the corporation is entitled to deny service to anyone they please (assuming they don't violate existing discrimination laws). I might think differently if we were talking about a company providing "basic" goods (e.g. water, electricity, or even Internet), in which case there could be a moral argument for imposing a universal service obligation on such companies. But cable TV is non-essential and you can easily find substitutes for it.
    I don't think so. If they're a public company, they can't tell you, one particular customer, that you must buy Good X under different conditions than another customer. Wal-mart can't say to me, "If you want to buy this television, you also have to buy this remote--but nobody else has to."
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    I will say it's definitely a stupid policy. If you buy their service, it can be assumed that you will have it for years and they will more than make up the money lost from that ONE unpaid bill. And it also makes them look like unreasonable jerks which will effect future business.

    On a similar topic, my previous cable provider just lost me. I recently moved and I called about a week prior to the move to transfer service to my new place and they said they couldn't do it for about three weeks. So I had to live without cable for two weeks and with the alternatives available (netflix streaming, apple TV, buying the new season of Breaking Bad from Itunes), I realized that I have plenty of viewing option without cable as well as ways to view those few shows that I can't wait to watch on DVD (like Breaking Bad) and it's all much, much cheaper than $50+ a month. So when the cable company called to finally install my cable, I canceled my service. If they had been prompt in transferring my cable service, I might not have realized how little I need their service.

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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    I don't think so. If they're a public company, they can't tell you, one particular customer, that you must buy Good X under different conditions than another customer. Wal-mart can't say to me, "If you want to buy this television, you also have to buy this remote--but nobody else has to."
    Actually, they can't tell anyone that they have to buy x product if they want to buy y product. The Clayton Act of 1914 prohibits price discrimination (when there is no cost difference), exclusive dealing, tying contracts, stock acquisition of competing companies, and interlocking directorates. This important piece of anti-trust legislature was mainly for business-to-business interactions, but all provisions apply to commercial sales as well. However, every single provision has some sort of exception and work-around.

    For example, your scenario is an example of a tying contract. A manufacturer or retailer cannot withhold product or service on the ground that you accept products and services that you don't want... unless you are a dealership. It is legal for, say, Hyundai to demand you buy two Azeras (one of the worst selling cars in America) for each Elantra (one of the best selling cars in America). This scenario is much more prevalent in motorsports like motorcycles and snowmobiles, where the ratio might be as bad as ten-to-one for undesirable models to desirable models. But this is only for dealerships, to my knowledge. Movie distributors can't force a theater to purchase projection rights to a blockbuster on the condition that they also buy a bundle of crappy movies. That is illegal.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr Gonzo View Post
    Why internet?
    It has become quite essential to our daily lives, as important or even more so than the telephone. If you have a desk job or are a student, chances are that you would need to use the Internet in the course of your day. And the Internet is a gateway to all sorts of information and communication capabilities.

    But of course, this debate is not about how essential the Internet is.

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    I don't think so. If they're a public company, they can't tell you, one particular customer, that you must buy Good X under different conditions than another customer. Wal-mart can't say to me, "If you want to buy this television, you also have to buy this remote--but nobody else has to."
    Why not?

    Quote Originally Posted by mican333 View Post
    On a similar topic, my previous cable provider just lost me. I recently moved and I called about a week prior to the move to transfer service to my new place and they said they couldn't do it for about three weeks. So I had to live without cable for two weeks and with the alternatives available (netflix streaming, apple TV, buying the new season of Breaking Bad from Itunes), I realized that I have plenty of viewing option without cable as well as ways to view those few shows that I can't wait to watch on DVD (like Breaking Bad) and it's all much, much cheaper than $50+ a month. So when the cable company called to finally install my cable, I canceled my service. If they had been prompt in transferring my cable service, I might not have realized how little I need their service.
    Absolutely true. I don't even live in America and I have access to most of the cable shows airing there. Cable companies should be trying to win over every customer they can, not push them away.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Trendem View Post
    It has become quite essential to our daily lives, as important or even more so than the telephone. If you have a desk job or are a student, chances are that you would need to use the Internet in the course of your day. And the Internet is a gateway to all sorts of information and communication capabilities.

    But of course, this debate is not about how essential the Internet is.
    This is a debate about the availability of goods and services, natural monopolies, and the right to refuse service. You lumped internet in with electric and water, yet these things are usually single-provider in any given area. You don't get a choice in utility companies, whereas there are many different options for internet - DSL, satellite, hell, dial-up, or you could just pirate it from your neighbors like everyone else does. The most common (and by far the best) way to connect to the internet is through cable.

    And that is something it sounds like Zhav's example could be denying.

    Your mention of the internet really does make me wonder what the absolute definition of a "basic good" is, and what would be covered under your "private company" clause. For example, food is most likely considered a basic good. Should a grocery store be able to deny you the right to shop in their establishment unless you, say, pay for someone else's bounced check?

    I tend to split with the conservatives when it comes to the "right of denial" argument. I mean, on the surface, yeah, those signs that say "WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE SERVICE TO ANYONE" do kind of make sense... but why would you ever need to proclaim (or rely on) that? If someone is in your grocery store being a nuisance and knocking over displays, you should be justified throwing him out (or calling the police to do it for you), but to me that isn't so much an issue of "right of denial" so much as "right to not be vandalized." Say the perpetrator was just being rude to other customers... well, that's disturbing the peace.

    There is just no reason to refuse service to someone for no reason. Does that make sense? If you are a business owner, why wouldn't you want to serve customers? That's what makes you money! Can anyone think of an example where a business owner would be completely justified kicking someone out of their operation that isn't already covered under some law?
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by Trendem
    Why not?
    Dr. Gonzo provided better support than I did, here:

    Actually, they can't tell anyone that they have to buy x product if they want to buy y product. The Clayton Act of 1914 prohibits price discrimination (when there is no cost difference), exclusive dealing, tying contracts, stock acquisition of competing companies, and interlocking directorates. This important piece of anti-trust legislature was mainly for business-to-business interactions, but all provisions apply to commercial sales as well. However, every single provision has some sort of exception and work-around.

    For example, your scenario is an example of a tying contract. A manufacturer or retailer cannot withhold product or service on the ground that you accept products and services that you don't want... unless you are a dealership. It is legal for, say, Hyundai to demand you buy two Azeras (one of the worst selling cars in America) for each Elantra (one of the best selling cars in America). This scenario is much more prevalent in motorsports like motorcycles and snowmobiles, where the ratio might be as bad as ten-to-one for undesirable models to desirable models. But this is only for dealerships, to my knowledge. Movie distributors can't force a theater to purchase projection rights to a blockbuster on the condition that they also buy a bundle of crappy movies. That is illegal.


    ---------- Post added at 06:43 AM ---------- Previous post was at 06:41 AM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Gonzo
    There is just no reason to refuse service to someone for no reason. Does that make sense? If you are a business owner, why wouldn't you want to serve customers? That's what makes you money! Can anyone think of an example where a business owner would be completely justified kicking someone out of their operation that isn't already covered under some law?
    What if the business owner found images of Justin Bieber incredibly annoying, and didn't want to admit anyone wearing a Justin Bieber t-shirt?
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by DR GONZO
    There is just no reason to refuse service to someone for no reason. Does that make sense? If you are a business owner, why wouldn't you want to serve customers? That's what makes you money! Can anyone think of an example where a business owner would be completely justified kicking someone out of their operation that isn't already covered under some law?
    What if we went to war against a specific nation, and then after say 10 years of killing them a soldier comes back home and opens a store. However, he is so traumatized by that specific group of people that he can not stand to be around them. (You know, because he spent 10 years killing them, and watching them kill his buddies).
    Now I know this is "racism", and we can both agree that it is better for his business if he isn't. But if it is HIS business, and HIS goods, then the gov shouldn't be able to force him to sell to anyone. On the other hand, those that are being refused didn't do anything personally wrong.

    P.S. The above is a real example from a local po-boy shop owner.
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    Re: Corporate Practices Part I

    Quote Originally Posted by CliveStaples View Post
    What if the business owner found images of Justin Bieber incredibly annoying, and didn't want to admit anyone wearing a Justin Bieber t-shirt?
    I don't think that would be a very likely real-life situation in the first place. And if a business owner ever did decide to do that, that's just ludicrous. Sure, it's his right to refuse service to anyone, and he has a reason (although a very idiotic one), yet people could just walk out of the store, change shirts, and walk right back in and do business. It wouldn't make sense to refuse service to Bieber shirt fans.
    Still, it's very unlikely that it would ever happen anyway, so I'm betting this argument is irrelevant.
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