Charter: Sorry We Deleted Your Email, Want $50?

Charter Cable is blaming a software error for accidentally and permanently deleting the email accounts of 14,000 users, and is offering a $50 credit as compensation, says the AP:

There is no way to retrieve the messages, photos and other attachments that were erased from inboxes and archive folders across the country on Monday, said Anita Lamont, a spokeswoman for the suburban St. Louis-based company.

“We really are sincerely sorry for having had this happen and do apologize to all those folks who were affected by the error,” Lamont said Thursday when the company announced the gaff.

Did this happen to any Consumerists? Happy with the $50?

Cable Co. Empties 14,000 E-Mail Accounts [AP]


Edit Your Comment

  1. juri squared says:

    If it were my email, it would be worth far more than $50, that’s for sure. Even with backups, it would be a major disaster for me.

  2. astrochimp says:

    That’s why people should use a POP3/IMAP option to their ISP’s webmail (if they have such an option), so that you can view it through Outlook/Thunderbird/etc. and thereby have a local copy stored on your hard drive. That, and because the interface for most webmail servers is abhorrent.

  3. huadpe says:

    I think $50 is about fair if they restore the addresses. I store all my email locally so this wouldn’t affect me, unless I had to give everyone a new email address, which would be a MAJOR pain.

    It’s a tough balance, cause some people will feel very upset and have been harmed far more than $50, and others will be barely if at all affected and be getting free money. If there’s no way to differentiate between group 1 and group 2 in that, then Charter would be massively scammed while trying to compensate people justly.

  4. yg17 says:

    Charter, it’s called backups. Then again, I wouldn’t actually expect you morons to have any sort of reliability.

  5. pylon83 says:

    Unfortunately, this is the risk you take when you don’t use a POP/IMAP client, thereby keeping copies of the email on your computer. There is a real risk of this happening, and it is somewhat unreasonable to expect Charter to keep a full backup of EVERYONE’s email. People should keep their own backups for this exact reason.

  6. Parting says:

    @jurijuri: Only per Terms and Conditions, company owns nothing to its customers. So at least it’s a nice gesture, to sweeten the pill.

  7. cortana says:

    I’d be amazed if they actually had sysadmins. Probably running it all on an Exchange backend.

  8. mgyqmb says:

    @pylon83: Well, IMAP can be set up to store the messages on the server as well, and in many cases, might be the default option. That’s how I use my e-mail from home. Then again, I work for the IT department of my university, realize that they keep backups for weeks and don’t worry too much about it.

    I just can’t bring myself to use POP. If I view the message at home, when I’m on campus, I can’t log in in and see it. Likewise, my girlfriend, who also works for the university, sometimes forgets and leaves her outlook running (set up with pop – since switched to exchange) when she leaves work, so she can’t view any new emails at home.

    A better idea would be to use IMAP with the server storage option enabled, but set up a rule on your account to auto-forward each message to a gmail dump account. Works like a charm, and you can do it on multiple email addresses to have one big giant backup maintained by google.

  9. RottNDude says:

    I’ll bet they had a backup system, but it involved Becky from Accounting changing the tape every day and never cleaning the drive or looking at the job log.

  10. QuantumRiff says:

    Hmm, 14,000 accounts with a 100MB limit (I think that’s what mine is.. DOn’t even know what the address is, never used it) Thats about 1.5 terrabytes. Lets call it 2Tb for fun. for about 5 grand you can get a tape library that can back that up in about 12 hours. For about 15 grand, you can build a Storage network to hold the data. Lets make it 30 grand, and replicate the data somewhere else, or just have more storage for storing snapshots of the data. Compare that to $700,000 cost to credit $50 to 14,000 customers. Wow, no wonder they’ve been unprofitable forever.

  11. yg17 says:

    @pylon83: If you use IMAP (which AFAIK, Charter doesn’t offer) it remains on the server. If you use POP, then its on your computer and of course you run the risk of your hard drive crapping out.

    IMO, there is no excuse for not having backups of customers’ email. Considering that you’re in a way PAYING for this, I would expect a higher level of reliability than the free services.

    The university I attend/work IT for has a small fraction of the funds that Charter has and anything on their servers is backed up a million times. The only thing that could possibly destroy all your data is nuclear warfare, and at that point, your e-mails are the least of your worries. If a university running on limited funds can do it, I don’t see why Charter, a large ISP with billions can’t. It is just irresponsible to not have any sort of redundancy or backups of data that your customers PAY you to store.

  12. courtarro says:

    @mgyqmb: IMAP and POP can both have similar behaviors if you configure them properly. I prefer to use POP, with the option set to leave the messages on the server for 30 days. That way I can check my email from multiple clients (within the month), but once the email has been downloaded to my PC, it is completely local and has no further connection with the server.

    IMAP, on the other hand, implies server dependency by default, though most good clients will locally cache what you read. You just have to make sure that caching is enabled and working properly – if the server says the emails got deleted, your locally cached copy might get deleted as well by your email reader. That’s not a possibility with POP.

    There are tradeoffs to each protocol.

  13. sled_dog says:

    Thanks, man.

    I never use my Charter e-mail account, but I’m sure as heck going for my $50.

  14. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    I’d take the $50…all I get is spam.

  15. alhypo says:

    I’ve never actually opened my Charter email account, but then, how would they know that now, right? Hahaha!

  16. randombob says:

    this right here is EXACTLY why I use POP and abhor IMAP… they’re MY emails, dammit, and I hate the thought of being at the feet of an ISP should anything happen, or they decide to change their rules (Hey I can be a conspiracy theorist).

  17. RandoX says:

    I’m not a Charter customer, but this has convinced me to download Thunderbird and backup all of my Gmail messages. Thanks, Consumerist!

  18. kimsama says:

    @mgyqmb: Dude, I use POP and just leave my messages on my server. Then I have the best of both worlds (can access all emails, old and new, from home and work). Of course, I don’t leave them on the server indeterminately, but they are there long enough. You could see if you can configure your gf’s email this way.

    I super agree with you on the backups — it’s insane that an ISP wouldn’t do that.

  19. Jamie Beckland says:

    But doesn’t gmail have multiple server redundancy, so there is no need to make a local backup? That’s my understanding, someone please tell me if I have this wrong! I have tens of thousands of emails in my gmail account…

  20. mbressman says:

    It’s funny…everyone here is advocating POP or IMAP, but no one has mentioned Hosted Exchange. I use Hosted Exchange and definitely think its the way to go…the best of both worlds. You can have everything locally cached in a local copy of Outlook (which I backup automatically every night with incremental changes backup by Norton Ghost), but also have all your email reside on the server so you can access it via Outlook Web Access from anywhere else. This way, if god forbid the Hosted Exchange provider dies or kills your account or something else horrendous, you still have all your email locally cached. And even more, there are a few Hosted Exchange providers out there (4smartphone, 1and1, etc.) that will allow you to use a third-party email address rather than having to buy your own domain name. I use my yahoo email account, which I forward to a gmail account, which then forwards to my hosted exchange account. Since Yahoo doesn’t also store automatically forwarded messages, but Gmail does, by doing this I have Gmail keep a copy of all my email also and if the Hosted Exchange provider goes down, I can still get my email and reply to it directly from the intermediary Gmail account. This probably seems a bit overkill to some people, but I’ve had disasters in the past where I’ve lost lots of email due to providers’ failures and been unable to receive/send email for days…so this way I will never have to worry about that again…and it was pretty easy to set up.

  21. emona says:

    I also use POP with two Gmail accounts and keep a copy on the server. I love Google like the crazy uncle I never had, but I’m not taking any chances. It’s useful if Google kaputs, but I also use my Gmail as storage so if my HD goes out, I’ve got at least some files tucked away remotely.

  22. MisterE says:

    Aaah. I wonder who is taking this more seriously? Consumerist readers or Charter?

    Hell, I should be paid $50 for reading some of these crappy posts!

  23. vladthepaler says:

    $50 x 14000 = $700,000. Maybe they should invest a few bucks in a backup system.

  24. unklegwar says:

    How does an ISP Not have backups of this stuff?

  25. scalv says:


    How do you clean the tape drive??

  26. Mr. Gunn says:

    mbressman: Exchange FTW! You can also check it from your phone and not worry about redownloading messages you already read.

  27. jimv2000 says:


    Check the “Leave Message on Server” option.

  28. Squeezer99 says:

    use pop3 instead of imap/webmail and back up your hard drive to another hard drive w/ karen’s replicator?

  29. f3rg says:

    Hey, if you’re dumb enough to use your IPS’s email instead of Gmail, you get what you get.

  30. rlee says:

    Charter… hmmm… Oh, yeah! The geniuses whose spam filter rejects spam reports sent to their abuse address. Yep, no surprise here.

  31. amccoll says:

    Pretty much, your ISP will give you, if you’re very lucky, about half the space Gmail would, and you don’t get to keep the address if you decide to discontinue the service. You always run the risk of your computer crashing or a server going down, so anything vitally important really needs to be stored in a couple safe locations.