They canceled my favorite cable networks — do they owe me?

By | August 22nd, 2013

David Jackson/Shutterstock
David Jackson/Shutterstock

When Rogers Cable removes two of Ed Kurys’s favorite channels from his cable package, he believes the company is violating his contract. But is it?

Question: I need your help with my cable company, Rogers. It recently removed BBC and Spike TV channels from my cable package.

One of the main reasons that I contracted with Rogers for cable many years ago was that it included the BBC, the only worthwhile news channel on TV today.

Isn’t this a violation of contract law? A valid contract consists of an offer, an acceptance and payment. In this case, when Rogers offered the cable package and I accepted and paid for the service, a valid contract was entered into between Rogers and me. Rogers has breached this contract when it arbitrarily removed the BBC from the package.

I’m trying to get Rogers to immediately reinstate BBC and Spike TV. As far as I’m concerned, they can keep the two channels that were added to replace these – I have no interest in them and am insulted that Rogers would think that they would be a satisfactory substitute for the two they have removed. — Ed Kurys, Kitchener, Canada

Answer: Actually, the Rogers terms of service, which is a classic adhesion contract, suggests it can pretty much do whatever it wants to with your cable package. Rogers is the largest cable company in Canada. Paragraph 26 of your agreement says it all: The company isn’t “responsible or liable to you for any software, content, products or services provided to you or accessible by you.” So, on paper at least, you have no rights.

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But in practice, you do. You’re an unhappy customer, which no self-respecting company wants to have. Even though it’s unlikely you can spin a legal argument, you should be able to craft a customer-service argument which makes Rogers see things your way.

In reviewing your correspondence with the company, it looks as if you took this complaint directly to the president of the company. You also mailed a paper letter. I would have started a little lower — maybe with an email sent through its “contact us” form.

It helps to know what your rights actually are. Your argument to Rogers — that it had breached a contract — didn’t really get you very far. But if you’d emphasized your loyalty to the company, and noted that you do have alternatives when it comes to entertainment, you might have had a more persuasive argument.

Of course, Rogers shouldn’t have dropped BBC from its lineup in the first place. Seems downright uncivilized, doesn’t it? I don’t care for the way in which cable is “bundled” either and I can’t believe customers have put up with the system for as long as they have. But that’s a whole ‘nother argument.

I contacted Rogers on your behalf. A representative called you the next day and offered you three years of BBC at no extra charge.

Should a cable company compensate customers when it drops a channel from a package?

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  • polexia_rogue

    wow. look up the word ‘entitled’ and the OP’s pic will be next to it.

    i mean really; he didn’t even use the contact us form?! his issue is sooo important that he needed to get the attention of the president of the company.

    i admit , i do not have cable, i have the basics; fox, nbc, cbs, cw- and for everything else (including BBC and spike TV) i can find it online so MABYE i simply cannot sympathize with people who love their cable tv package. (i know my mother in law would get pissed if she ever lost Lifetime or Gameshow Network.)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    My understanding is that you can cancel you cable at any time. If the company changes the lineup, the OP’s remedy is to cancel the subscription. The OP’s legal argument is specious at best.

  • sirwired

    It sucks when the cable company drops a channel you like. But the OP did himself a great harm to his request to be compensated when he brought out legal gibberish dimly remembered from Intro to Law 101. Yes, he got the required elements of a contract correct, but he apparently neglected to read said contract, which almost certainly does not list any particular channels at all except “pay premiums” like HBO, Cinemax, etc.

    Legal statements should always be the last resort in a dispute, only to be used after all other avenues have been exhausted, and only then when you have a thick legal leg to stand on. Otherwise your complaint will bypass the rest of the customer service apparatus, go straight to the legal dept. who will evaluate based on strict merit. If they find your complaint wanting in any way, you’ll rarely get the courtesy of even a response, your letter will instead get dumped in the trash can.

  • EdB

    I’m sure there is also some clause in the contract that allows them to change package content at their discretion. I personally feel that if the company does that, you should be allowed to cancel without an ETF if you are in a long term contract.

  • Pat

    A while back when Dish dropped Velocity from the package I had and moved it to an add-on package, I was regular viewer of the shows on Velocity. When I called Dish to ask why it was moved and express that this was a channel I watched, they offered give me the add-on package at no charge. Apparently there were a lot of other customers that called to complained because it was moved back to the package. But when I complained I was nice and respectful plus it helped that I have been a Dish customer since 1999.


    I voted no because I am simply against the compensation culture which seems to permeate all aspects of our lives these days. Cable/Satellite companies make program changes frequently and many of us have been affected by those changes. (I have DirecTV and have seen many changes.) Do they owe every customer compensation for these changes? No, because all customers are not affected the same way. Some may not have noticed that BBC and Spike were missing. Others, like the OP, might be devastated. Like Chris says, the biggest problem is bundling. We watch a small percentage of the channels we get on our package, but have to subscribe to the package to get the channels we want. We should just be able to pay and get the channels we want!

  • Imspecial

    “I voted no because I am simply against compensation culture which seems to permeate all aspects of our life these days”

    Yeah. How dare the OP to expect to get what he pays for. It doesn’t matter that when he signed up he was promised one thing but given another. I have no problem ordering a steak at a restaurant and them changing the menu and bringing me a hamburger.

  • Carver Clark Farrow


  • Michael__K

    The contract Chris links to says that cancelling your cable before the end of your Commitment Period incurs a Cancellation Fee.

    There is a provision which says that residents of Newfoundland and Quebec (only) can avoid the Cancellation Fee by providing written notice within 30 days of a change in service that they don’t consent to.

    The OP is from Ontario, so I assume that didn’t apply and Rogers was sticking to the strict language of their contract and not letting him cancel service (regardless of the programming reductions) without paying the Cancellation Fee.

  • MarkKelling

    Many years ago in Houston, the cable company moved Food Network from the standard cable package to an expensive add on bundle of which the only channel I would have been interested in was Food. A shopping channel took its place. There was a mighty uproar and it was front page news in both newspapers and on TV. The cable company’s reasoning for the move? “Not enough customers watched the channel to justify continuing including it in the standard bundle.” Translation: everybody wants this channel so we are going to make money off of it and we are getting paid to include the shopping channel for all customers. I canceled cable and never missed any of it.

    I think this is similar to what happened to the OP. The cable company recognized that BBC was a channel many of its customers watched and felt they could make more money by making it an optional extra cost offering. Not sure where the OP is located in Canada, maybe there is no broadcast TV reception at his location and cable is the only option, but no one needs TV to survive. The cable company is within its rights to change its offerings, with proper advance notice, whenever it wants. Any customer not happy with the results should be free to quit being a customer with no penalty. Glad they were able to offer him something anyway.

  • Alan Gore

    Your “compensation culture” is a natural response to “stick it to the customer with a one-way contract” culture. That’s why our response, increasingly, is to cut the cord on cable by using Internet content, subscription or otherwise, for the desired channels.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Two problems.

    I don’t know how to analyze a Canadian contract beyond a lay persons knowledge.

    Does it state that the OP had a commitment period. I see some conditional language, but nothing concrete.

  • MarkKelling

    I think this is more of a case of a restaurant offering steak as part of its fixed price dinner menu for many months but then, due to the popularity of that menu item, still offering it but at an additional charge. The menu has been updated to reflect that, but if the customer doesn’t bother to read the notice in the menu and still expects steak he will be disappointed.

  • Randy Busch

    He can either get satellite or a media streaming box.

  • Bill___A

    So it looks like they didn’t “drop” BBC from their offerings, they just dropped it from their package. I see this happen all of the time. Probably 70% of the channels in my package, I have no use for. I would like to see the cable companies offer all channels “a la carte”. Each subscriber could pick what they wanted, and discounts could be given based upon the number of channels selected. Unfortunately, for as long as regulators are bullied into shoving crap channels down our throats, this will continue. Each channel should survive upon their own merits and not depend upon bundles for survival.

  • Michael__K

    The same contract covers both Month-to-Month Service and Term Service (which has a Commitment Period & Cancellation Fee).

    I read the “I contracted with Rogers for cable” to imply he was receiving Term Service.

    If the OP had Month-to-Month service then I agree he wouldn’t have much of a complaint, except possibly for a tiny partial refund if the billing is in advance and if he paid for expected service that wasn’t delivered.

  • Jane

    It’s good for more folks to know that cable companies will cut a deal for folks who complain politely and through the customer service organization. A keyword to remember is “customer retention”, as in “I’m unhappy with what you are offering. May I please speak to the customer retention department?” Those folks are authorized to cut different deals for you, as in giving you what you want free for 2 years. My parents have been playing this game with their cable provider for over a decade to get the stuff they want for lower prices.

  • emanon256

    From Rogers Website:

    We review and make changes to our TV offerings from time to time in an effort to bring you more choice. We’ll be adding new channels to some TV packages, and also moving some of our specialized channels to better-suited specialty and theme packages

    If the OP was so unhappy, why not just go to an other provider? He said he had choices. Sadly, where I live, we don’t have choices. Its ComCast or ComCast. I miss living in NY where I had 4 cable TV providers to choose from who were highly competitive with each other.

    Honestly, in my many years of having cable, channels change all the time, but I never thought about immediately writign the CEO and demanding channels get re-instated and then going to a Consumer Advocate. Either take your business elsewhere, pay for the channel, or deal with it. Complaining about one or two channels out of many is like complaining about one of the many pools on a cruise line being closed for part of a day and ruining your entire trip.

    In reviewing Rogers website I can only find month-to-month plans for just cable TV. So its not like he has to pay an ETF to change providers if he is so unhappy. If they did charge an ETF, I would support this as grounds to waive the ETF, but otherwise, they just re-packaged things. If I go to a restaurant and get the same burger I always get and the price went up one month, am I going to write the CEO and demand the lower the price of the burger? That’s essentially what the OP did.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    From a practical standpoint, the poll question is pretty absurd. There was no reduction in the total number of channels in the package, they just switched up what channels made up the package.

    Since there’s at least one person somewhere who enjoys every single channel, it’d be impossible to ever drop a channel without offering compensation. And even the poorest-watched network of all time would suddenly have countless avid fans once there was the opportunity to profit when it went away.

    Yeah, sometimes your favorite channel goes away. Your favorite shows get canceled, too. Should there be compensation offered when that happens?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Highly unlikely that when he signed up there was a specific promise that these two channels were forever and ever going to be part of the package. He’s paying for a package of many channels; he’s still got a package of many channels. If they locked everything in, the OP would shortly be complaining that some new channel he liked wasn’t being added to the package.

  • emanon256

    There was actually a clause in the contract that you can cancel without an ETF if there is a lineup change, you must request to cancel within 30 days of the change. However, by going through their various channels, the only term contracts I am seeing are if you bundle a home security system with the cable. They also have some rent-to-own equipment deals, but it looks like you can cancel still without an ETF, you just have to pay the difference between the rent-to-own rate and the standard rental rate.

  • Molly

    I think the OP was killing an ant with an elephant gun. And I also think his entitled attitude shows what an egoist he is.
    When you buy a cable service because they offer your favorite channel and then they drop that channel, I believe the customer has every right to expect some compensation as well as the right to cancel the contract entirely. And as you pointed out Chris, you start with the customer service department, not with a letter to the President of the company claiming they broke the law. Sheesh! The OP’s attitude that the cable company thinks their substitute would satisfy his personal tastes shows that he thinks the world revolves around him. He really believes that the programming department sat around their conference table and said, “Hmmm, do we think this substitute will make Mr. Kurys happy?”. I don’t think so. It’s generally a numbers game, and they go with whatever channel they feel will make them the most profit. I’m often disappointed by the changes my cable company makes, but I don’t take it personally
    I’m surprised you wasted your time on this one Chris. I would have advised Kurys that Rogers broke no laws and to appeal, politely, to a customer service person and he’d probably get some resolution to his satisfaction.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    And your restaurant analogy is rather flawed, given the way the real world operates. Occasionally you order something and they’re out, other times your favorite item is removed when the menu is changed up. You’re not due any additional compensation but you have every right to leave the restaurant and eat someplace else, just as this guy could cancel and use some other TV provider.

  • William_Leeper

    I don’t know if Canada is the same, but here in the US, the FCC requires cable and satellite providers publish a legal notice in the newspapers in their markets at least 30 days before any changes are made. That notice also includes the steps that a customer can take to keep the channels, or to get out of the contract.

    With that said, how many people actually read those legal notices?

  • EdB

    What I see as the problem is the cable company didn’t drop the channel, just moved them. If the channel had actually been dropped, I don’t see any need for compensation. However, when they move a channel from a lower tier to a higher cost tier, there are going to be complaints.

  • EdB

    How many people actually get a newspaper to read those notices? :)

    I think they are also required to post a notice in the billing statement about any upcoming changes.

  • emanon256

    I’m still sad they moved the discovery channel to a more expensive package. I did call the local office and ask why out of curiosity and I also asked if I could get just the discovery channel. They told me that it was a very expensive channel to include, and that it have very few people watching it, so it was un-profitable to keep it in the basic bundle. They replaced it with SyFi which they thought would be a good replacement. It wasn’t. And they also said they can’t currently support a pay per channel model except in regards to premium channels. Thems the breaks. I can go to satellite, but ultimately it would cost more and tie me into a contract. I have no control over what businesses do. So I don’t let it bother me. I would however support a build your own bundle package. Asking for compensation over my favorite channel going away never even crossed my mind.

  • emanon256

    I get a letter in the mail every time it happens, it has a printed card showing the new lineups that I keep by the remote.

  • lac

    If i subscribe to a package particularly for certain channels, and pay a premium price for that package, and then the package changes, my terms of acceptance have changed; therefore, some compensation is due.

  • tomjuno

    As has been pointed out, Rogers Cable – which operates mainly in the Canadian province of Ontario – offers cable customers a contract that, for a small discount, in effect indentures the customer to the company. The contract allows the company to change the terms of the contract at any time – including the price. The only way to wriggle out of the contract, if you don’t like the changes, is to pay a stiff breakup fee. Rogers’ two major competitors in Ontario operate pretty much the same. In short, it’s no fun being a cable customer in Ontario – though I’m sure U.S. cable customers have similar complaints. Which is why I go month-to-month instead of a contract with Rogers, awaiting the time when I finally tire of escalating prices and seemingly whimsical changes, and switch to a more competitive and value-priced service. That day will come.

  • MarkKelling

    “it was a very expensive channel to include.”

    That is the standard scripted line from the cable company every time they change the lineup. Every channel is “very expensive” with the exception of the shopping channels which pay the cable companies to be included in the bundles. But as I remarked elsewhere, this is just a way for the cable companies to make more money on the same offerings: move the popular channels into a more expensive package. Enough people apparently pay or they wouldn’t continue to do it.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I watch Discovery quite a bit…rather surprised it wouldn’t have much viewership. I’d have pegged them as a channel with a pretty loyal viewership who would be likely willing to pay extra for it, which might explain why it got moved to a higher package.

    But at least you called the local office. The OP started with the company president and was playing amateur lawyer from the get-go. The only thing people hate more than lawyers are amateur lawyers!

  • Trudi

    I believe there is much more than just picking and chosing which channels the company wants to bundle. The day will come when cable providers wil be able to have customers pick exactly what they want to pay for and that will be their personal bundle. Until then,costs and contracts with individual stations will dictate customer offers. The billing for individual service would be a nightmare.
    Rather pretentious to write to the president when customer service could have done their job. The days when a company president lived to keep his customers happy is long gone – he/she lives for investors.

  • emanon256

    I’m still going through Myth Busters withdrawal, I missed the whole last season.

  • DavidYoung2

    Well, losing BBC / BBC America really IS grounds to call the president. No Dr. Who? No Top Gear? No Graham Norton? Might just as well toss the TV!

  • Suzy blew

    given UK taxpayers have to pay for the BBC, I would hope you don’t illegally watch it online.

  • bodega3

    I want to go back to my old TV antenna and a basic TV, which we are considering. We watch maybe 10 stations now, just because there are there but pay for over 200. I honestly miss the old days of 5 stations (2,,4,5,7,9), no universal remote and all the things you have to turn on just to get to the station you want…that you pay an arm and a leg for, too.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Yes, but I don’t miss having to schedule my entire day around watching a show at a certain hour. The few shows I watch regularly, I’m not even completely sure when they actually air live. I just watch them via video on-demand whenever I have the time. And if the doorbell rings while I’m watching, no harm because I can just hit pause!

  • bodega3

    If I miss it, I’ll catch it on rerun or on my computer. I want simplicity, no more boxes, discs on the roof, 3 remotes. I want a TV that doesn’t need a remote but then I couldn’t watch my DVD’s (which I also don’t like) and videos, so can’t go back too much. Just few minutes ago I hit something on the darn remote that took 10 minutes to get the TV back to what I wanted.

  • Nicolas @ Rogers


    I’m Nicolas from Rogers Social Media team. I came across this post on Facebook this afternoon.

    While we review our services from time to time, we’re committed to provide the best customer experience. As noted above, and while we’ll always read letters that are addressed to us, there are also other and faster ways to reach out to us.

    We’re available on social media via Twitter @RogersHelps or on Facebook (you can message us directly on our page) and we’ll always do our best to help out when someone reaches out to us.

    Also feel free to tweet me @RogersNicolas

  • Richard

    Hey this disqus is kind of neat. I can vote as much as I want from the same computer. I just voted 4 x Yes. & 3 x No , so as not to fowl up the statistics.

  • nyctraveler

    I live in an apartment building in New York City where the only cable service provider option I have is Time Warner Cable. I’m not allowed to install a satellite dish nor is my building wired for Fios. At the end of the day, if I want to watch TV I have to sign up with Time Warner. So don’t think that everyone always has an option of the provider they use. Right now, TWC dropped all CBS/Showtime channels while they dispute their rates. So I’m left without Showtime until they’ve reached an agreement. If you have the option to switch providers, consider yourself lucky.

  • $16635417

    Years ago I worked in a travel call center environment. On evening I had to work the supervisor desk and took an irate call from someone who I knew to be a law professor, based on his travel profile.

    He started spewing legalese to me and I actually knew a lawyer who attended that university, halfway across the country. I asked him if I could try to conference call “so and so” in, who is a lawyer friend of mine and could help me understand the problem from the legal perspective he was mentioning. He stopped talking and very calmly said…”now there’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile…how do you know ‘so and so'”. I told him we’d been friends since childhood, he mentioned how he was a student of his and was actually one of his academic advisers. After that, the legal talk stopped and we were able to come to a creative solution to his problem.

    But yes, had I not recognized the university or not decided to try that approach, the proper procedure would have been to document everything he said, not try to assist any further and advise him someone in our legal dept would be contacting him. (I still didn’t follow procedure, but ultimately I solved the problem with a solution he was very happy with.)

  • SoBeSparky

    You have a valid point on entitlement, except in this case I can see the viewer depending solely on BBC for all news content. Thus, the dropping of the channel was a major change in his lifestyle and enjoyment. I would write the president of the cable company too if MSNBC (my preference) were dropped from my channel lineup. Most of my cable viewing is on that and CNN, not the entertainment channels. So maybe I feel a bit entitled!

  • oceankitten

    i have not seen dexter in three weeks…i’m dying. and because we also use time warner for internet, i can’t watch it online either.

  • nyctraveler

    OMG! Tell me about. In the same boat. Final season of Dexter and I’m missing out. I’m hoping this gets resolved before Homeland comes back on. :-/

  • y_p_w

    As other have stated, this is an issue of bundled packages of channels. It’s obvious that they still have BBC if they can offer it.

    As for myself, I’ve got Comcast and my kid is a Disney lover. I’m not sure about changing over to another package to get Disney Junior, but in the meanwhile I can still get some of the programming on the regular Disney Channel. There was a time when I could actually access specific Disney Junior programs on-demand, but now it seems to be strictly tied to specific programs where we have a subscription for that channel. It was also great at a time where the Disney Junior smart phone app would allow me to access all programs using my Comcast login, but now it locks me out (except for those free to anyone) since Disney Junior isn’t in my subscription package.

    And if he contracted out “many years ago”, he doesn’t likely have a early termination fee. He could get out any time. I looked it up, and their longest contracts are two years. Beyond that it’s essentially a month to month agreement for service where continuing to pay means they agree to provide the service. They have no guarantees to maintain a specific channel lineup though.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Top Gear? Seriously? I watch Star Trek sometimes on Sat. afternoons, but that’s about it for BBC. Now if they had the original British “Whose Line”, that would be worth seeing.

  • BMG4ME

    The answer is simple – cancel the TV. It’s such a time waster. Not only does it waste time viewing material that supports immorality and has managed to influence our country into accepting things that would never have been accepted 20 years ago, but now you have to waste yours and Chris’s time trying to get your money back!

  • Sadie_Cee

    Like the OP, I lost BBCWN in the last Rogers shuffle, but still have BBCC. Of course, I would gladly surrender BBCC to get back the other channel. There is just too much ‘Top Gear’ on BBCC for my liking. I already pay extra for three international channels and adding a fourth would be simple indulgence. It is some consolation, though, that Rogers has the best customer service of all the telecommunications companies in my part of Canada and I am happy that they are pouring money into that. Calls are answered by live, well-trained agents who give you the ‘straight goods’. Why didn’t the OP contact customer service before going to the President? I believe his issue could have been resolved sooner.

  • TMMao

    Time and money are both wasted. With most “basic cable” packages running over $100/mth including the digital box rental, that is $1200 to $2000 a year in savings by cutting the cord. Modern rabbit ears work surprisingly well for receiving local HD network programming at no cost.

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