Man Files Antitrust Suit Against Time Warner Over Forced Cable Box Rentals

Matthew Meeds of Fairway, Kansas, doesn’t want to pay Time Warner Cable a monthly rental fee for his cable box—he’d rather own one outright. He’s filed suit against the cable provider and its parent company, Time Warner, Inc., accusing them of establishing an illegal tying arrangement by making the box rental a condition of the subscription agreement. He’s seeking class-action status for all TWC premium customers in Kansas.

“Time Warner’s improper tying and bundling harms competition,” Meeds’ lawsuit states. “Since the class can only rent the cable box directly from Time Warner, manufacturers of cable boxes are foreclosed from renting and/or selling cable boxes directly to members of the class at a lower cost.”

Meeds told the Kansas City Star,

“I think that for most people, if they could buy the box, they would. That definitely makes more sense.”

Meeds’ attorney says that the situation is similar to the days when AT&T forced customers to rent telephones, before lawsuits helped break open the market:

“I think it’s very similar to the cases brought back in those days, where slowly but surely, the courts whittled away at that kind of protectionist activity by AT&T,” he said.

“I think the same thing is present here. You have a lot of companies out there manufacturing these boxes, and there’s nothing necessarily proprietary about them. … They only cost about $30 or $40 at most, and they’re charging around $15 a month for them.”

“Fairway man sues Time Warner over cable box rental requirement” [Kansas City Star]