UPC under anti-trust scrutiny

Dutch customers complain of poor service

This article was updated at 3:00 p.m.

AMSTERDAM — Cabler United Pan-Europe Communications is once again being probed by Dutch competition authorities after complaints from disgruntled customers.

The Dutch Socialist Party has asked the Netherlands Competition Authority to look into 3,700 complaints from viewers who claim they are being billed for services not rendered, late billings and that bills are littered with inaccuracies.

UPC has a cable and Internet monopoly in the greater Amsterdam area.

NMA spokeswoman Saskia Bierling said the competition authority had also received numerous complaints against UPC and it has warned it to clear up the problems.

“We’re giving UPC some time to act,” said Bierling. “We can levy a fine for every day that it fails to take care of the problem, if we decide it is abusing its monopoly position,” she added.

Many of the complaints were against Chello, UPC’s Internet services, but its cable TV and telephony services also have come under fire.

UPC, controlled by U.S.-based Liberty Media baron John Malone, is recapitalizing and fighting a case filed by a stockholder that wants to block a debt-for-equity swap that would erase UPC’s $12 billion debt. The case has gone to the Supreme Court in Holland.

UPC has a history of service complaints. On Monday, it took out a full-page ad in local newspapers apologizing for the glitches in service.

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