Maine cable law upheld after U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear appeal
The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal in the challenge of a Maine law that prohibits cable companies from charging for a full month of service after customers cancel.
The cable provider Spectrum had petitioned the nation's highest court to review a lower court's ruling a first-in-the-nation law that required cable companies to provide a refund to customers for the remaining days in a billing period after canceling their service. The Maine Legislature passed the law in 2020 after customers complained that they were being forced to pay for days or weeks of service that they did not want. But companies such as Spectrum and its parent company, Charter Communications, argued that Maine requiring pro-rated bills violated federal law as a form of rate regulation.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Spectrum’s petition to review the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
The Maine Attorney General's Office, which defended the law in court, said Spectrum has been complying with the law since last February but that customers who canceled between September 2020 and January 2022 could now be eligible for a refund.
“Just as it would be unacceptable for a restaurant to charge for undelivered food or Amazon to charge for an undelivered package, large cable companies should not be permitted to charge for cable that is not provided,” Attorney General Aaron Frey said in a statement. “I’m thrilled that consumers will no longer have to pay after they cancel their subscriptions. I strongly encourage Mainers who didn’t get what they were owed going back to September 2020 to request their refunds.”
Former Rep. Seth Berry of Bowdoinham, who sponsored the original bill, praised his legislative colleagues for their willingness to pass the law despite the legal threats and the Attorney General's Office for its representation.
"It is fantastic news that going forward, Maine will be the first state to require that people only pay for what they actually used in cable service,” Berry said in an interview. Berry said many seasonal camp owners in Maine ended up paying the additional costs after canceling their service for the portion of the year when the camp was not in use.
“And I think it was largely the principle of the thing, too,” Berry said. “The Legislature felt that it just wasn’t right to allow cable companies to continue to bill people for service that they did not receive, sometimes for as much as 29 or 30 days of service that they were not using and had terminated already.”