A bankruptcy judge on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction barring Charter Communications from distributing any advertising suggesting Windstream customers could lose service because of its chapter 11 bankruptcy, and cutting services to Windstream customers.
Windstream, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February, filed its suit in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. It alleged Charter engaged in a “scare-tactic” campaign to deceive customers into believing it would no longer provide services and was going to liquidate.
Last month, the court issued a temporary restraining order against Charter. The preliminary injunction is in effect while the case proceeds, said David Avery, Windstream’s vice president of corporate affairs.
“We are pleased with the judge’s conclusion that the Charter advertisements were untrue and improper, and that Charter is barred from making any misleading or false communications about our reorganization efforts throughout the litigation,” he said.
Charter couldn’t be reached for comment.
According to Windstream’s complaint, Charter, through its Spectrum brand, started the campaign to “mislead, deceive, and confuse consumers regarding the reason, status and consequences” of its Chapter 11 filing. Charter disseminated false advertisements targeting Windstream’s strongest customer bases in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina and Ohio, it said. This included both business customers and consumers.
Windstream also alleged Charter disconnected service to about 350 Windstream customers without notice to “fabricate uncertain service.” When Windstream customers contacted Charter to have their services reinstated, they were told that service was not being reinstated because of Windstream’s failure to pay certain amounts due to Charter, according to the complaint.
According to the court order, a Windstream customer was disconnected after the temporary restraining order was in place. Windstream also alleges that a new door-to-door campaign was initiated after the restraining order took effect.
The injunction requires Charter to cease and desist any and all discontinuation of services to Windstream customers, and to restore all discontinued services. Charter also is required to cease and desist its direct-mail campaign and any related advertising.
The court also authorized Windstream to send a letter to all customers contacted by Charter telling them the direct-mail advertisement they received was not from Windstream, but from a competitor, and a federal court now has ruled that the advertisement was “untrue and improper.”
The letter also will state that “Windstream continues to operate and provide service to its customers. We regret any confusion that this competitor’s untrue and improper conduct may have caused you.” Charter is required to cover all costs associated with preparing and mailing the letter.
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