Supreme Court upholds Maine cable-customer protection law

Jan. 10—The U.S. Supreme Court has left intact a Maine law that requires cable companies to charge customers only for the period they are connected to the TV or internet provider in the customer's final month of service.

The court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to the law that had been set to go into effect in September 2020. The law was put on hold by a lawsuit filed by the cable company Spectrum Northeast, part of media giant Charter Communications Inc., which had argued that the state law was pre-empted by federal ones governing cable service.

The Supreme Court's decision upheld a ruling by the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had affirmed the law.

State officials said Spectrum has been complying with the Maine law since last February while it pursued the appeal. The company agreed to stop the practice of full-month billing for the final month of service for anyone who canceled their cable service between September 2020 and January 2022 and requested the billing change.

The law governing billing for the final month of service was introduced in 2020 by former Maine Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoin, and was upheld by the 1st Circuit in early 2022.

Berry said the bill was prompted by Spectrum's decision in 2019 to start charging customers for the full final month of service rather than billing them just for the days that their cable was connected.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey likened Spectrum's practice to a restaurant charging for undelivered food.

"Large cable companies should not be permitted to charge for cable (service) that is not provided," Frey said. He encouraged customers who canceled service since September 2020 to make sure they were charged a prorated amount or request a refund from their cable provider.