Legal Question in Telecomm Law in New York

Theft of Cable Services

A rep. from the local cable company came to my apt. today and accused us of illegally obtaining cable TV over the last 12-14 months. The situation is that the previous occupant had cable TV and internet access but that service was cancelled when she moved out and the equipment was returned. However, apparently the cable company never disconnected the TV hookup in the apt. complexís wiring closet. So when I moved in and connected a cable from the apartmentís wall connection to my TV the basic cable worked on the TV. I thought the basic cable was a part of the monthly rent. Now the cable co. was me to pay either the $53/month for the 14 months, or a $200 restitution fee. I donít want to pay either because I never requested the service and sure as heck didnít think I was obtaining it illegally. I havenít seen anything in writing yet, but does the cable company have a case against me even though I had no intent of theft and it was their fault the service was never disconnected?

Asked on 6/11/07, 7:52 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Johm Smith tom's

Re: Theft of Cable Services

You passively received cable without actively stealing. You know you should pay, unless you really believed it came with your apt., in which case it would probably be listed on your lease. All that aside, the cable company can't prove you knew you had no right to the cable service. So you can probably avoid paying, if you don't mind getting your TV service elsewhere.

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Answered on 6/11/07, 8:04 pm
John Friedman Law Office of John K. Friedman

Re: Theft of Cable Services

You face something of a dilemma -- you knew the signal came from the cable company but unless you can show a rational reason for believing it was bundled with your apt. rent (such as it being listed as a service provided by the landlord in your lease) you will likely lose a battle in court (and you can expect them to take you to small claims court). There's no question of "theft" in the sense of a crime as they can't prove you had the necessary intent. However, you did receive the service, you knew it came from a source that makes its money being paid for that service, and you took a proactive step to obtain it -- you hooked the TV up to the cable drop in your apartment.

The cable company is offering a compromise: $200 and the problem goes away. Alternatively, you go to court and they seek $700+ ($53 x 14 months).

The ball is in your court. If you wish to receive cable TV service I'd make a counter offer -- $100 in restitution and they wave installation fees, etc. If not, let them take you to court if you think you can negotiate them down in a arbitration (which the small claims court will likely try to push on both parties).

The foregoing is not legal advice, merely commentary on a question posed.

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Answered on 6/12/07, 10:31 am

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