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The impasse between Cablevision and Fox over retransmission consent was bound to produce a good class action lawsuit.
A group of New York customers have filed one in federal court in New York, arguing that the cable company has an obligation to give its customers who pay on average $150-per-month rebates for depriving them of Fox News, Glee, House, The Simpsons, New York Giants football, the MLB playoffs, and other content.
The plaintiffs are asking for about $450 million in damages, which is about the equivalent of one month’s cable bill for the company’s three million subscribers.
This isn’t the first time that Cablevision has faced a class action lawsuit after channels were pulled. Earlier this year, a class action was filed after HGTV and the Food Network were removed from the dial, but the lawsuit went nowhere because Cablevision soon came to an agreement that restored service.
In that lawsuit, plaintiffs argued that Cablevision had breached its contract with customers by making a “material change” of its service.
This latest lawsuit, Gallo v. Cablevision Systems Corp., goes a step further.
According to the complaint, plaintiffs want a federal judge to settle several legal questions including whether Cablevision breached its agreements with customers, whether Cablevision has been unjustly enriched, whether Cablevision has engaged in unfair and deceptive and fraudulent practices, and whether “Cablevision should be enjoined from employing its negotiating strategies at the expense of its customers in the future.”
Yes, it’s worth noting that besides the large monetary damages — common in most class action lawsuits — the plaintiffs are also seeking permanent injunctive relief. It’s premised on the allegations that Cablevision “played a game of chicken with News Corp. at the expense of Cablevision’s customers,” and failed to engage in constructive negotiations prior to the deadline. The plaintiffs are not impressed with the binding arbitration offer either, saying it was tardy and lacked a belated sense of urgency.
The customers, who say they were deprived of Fox Channels and its “distinctive viewpoint in the political speech arena,” want a federal judge’s order that Cablevision submit to mandatory dispute resolution mechanisms in the future.
Plus, punitive damages and legal fees of course.
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