TV providers at odds over tactics

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE — MINET officials say 11 customers have complained about Charter Communications salespeople not using best practices in their sales approach.   "It's a lot of bad behavior, outright misinformation," said David Clyne, Independence city manager and MINET board member. "It's a predatory tactic that a lot of the larger operators will engage in from time to time."   The bad behavior he referred to is door-to-door salesmen from Charter who are allegedly telling customers MINET is going out of business.   "Our sales efforts do not focus on discrediting other providers," said Jack Hardy, senior manager of communications for Charter's Northwest and Mountain states. "The emphasis is on educating customers about features and the benefits of Charter's services."   That includes the recent upgrades and expanded service in the Monmouth-Independence area, Hardy said.   He could not comment specifically if door-to-door salesmen were making the alleged comments about MINET's longevity.   Jason Saunders, customer service and sales director at MINET, said no one has been able to provide names of the Charter representatives.   MINET General Manager Don Patten has sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley alleging representatives from Charter Communications have been spreading rumors that MINET is going out of business.   "It has come to our attention recently that a large national corporation may be using unfair and deceptive tactics to capture market share from MINET," Patten said in the letter.   Patten is out of state and was not available to return phone messages from the Itemizer-Observer.   Representatives from Merkley's office were unavailable by press time.   Marilyn Morton, a MINET spokeswoman and Independence city councilwoman, said the letter was written to alert Merkley to "disturbing business practices."   "We did request action, but left it to his discretion," she said.   Morton did not know if there has been a response from Charter yet, after MINET's attorney sent a notice to the general counsel for Charter, based in St. Louis.   No one from the MINET office has called anyone from Charter directly, she said.   "We're going all through attorneys," she said.   The names of MINET customers who called to complain about the situation were not released in the letter to Merkley, nor to this newspaper.   Morton said customer names are protected information by Customer Proprietary Network Information.   "Our customers find it very frustrating," Morton said. "I personally have talked to a neighbor who was trying to unwind her situation where here 86-year-old mother who did not speak English got entered into an agreement where she didn't know what she was doing."   She said in cases like this, MINET has been successful in helping those customers.   Morton said if a solicitor approaches a resident of Monmouth or Independence, both cities require solicitors to register with the city. Residents may request to see a solicitor's license.   "Call the MINET office, we'll give that information to the attorney," Morton said. And, "Be careful what you're signing, as with anybody who would come to the door."   She said MINET is not going out of business.   "We're growing stronger every day," Morton said. "We expect a long future."   


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