Our legal system at work (with an economics test after)
June 30, 2008
From an actual document I recently received, not one word made up.
Why did I get this notice package?
You may have been a Time Warner Cable subscriber at some time between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1998 and may have been on a list of subscribers whose personal information may have been made available for sale by Time Warner Cable to other companies for marketing purposes. . . .
What is this lawsuit about?
The lawsuit claimed that Time Warner Cable sold personal information about its subscribers to other companies that wanted the information to advertise and try to sell you products and services. The lawsuit claimed that Time Warner Cable is required to tell subscribers how it collects and uses their personal information, and that Time Warner Cable failed to do so in compliance with applicable law. Time Warner Cable denies that it did anything wrong or that it violated any law, and believes that it would have ultimately prevailed at trial. . . .
What benefits does the settlement provide?
If you qualify, you may receive $5 or free services. If you choose to receive free services, here are the free Time Warner Cable services you can get. . . .
(1) One free month of any Time Warner Cable service that is available on a monthly basis and that you don't already have.
(2) Two (2) free Movies on Demand. . . .
Are there other settlement benefits in addition to the $5 of free services?
Yes. As part of the settlement, Time Warner Cable has agreed: (1) to change its disclosure to subscribers about how it collects and uses their personal information; (2) to employ a Chief Privacy Officer in charge of making sure the company complies with privacy laws; (3) to give money to two public interest groups that care about and work on privacy issues; (4) to pay the costs of sending and publishing this notice and giving out the free services and $5 checks; (5) to give money to the two Class Representatives who participated in this case for all the subscribers; and (6) to pay for the lawyers who represented the subscribers throughout this case.
Now, for some questions--and a prize offer--please read the continuation.
UPDATE: For a different view on the merits of this settlement, see the comments of Daniel L. Anderson, the attorney who represented objectors to the original settlement agreement.
A. What percentage of Time Warner Cable's actual customers care one iota about this?
B. Of the group in A, what percentage read all, or part, of the booklets?
C. Of the group in B, what percentage did, or will do--ever--anything differently?
D. For whatever harm was done to the percentage of customers stated in part C--and please recall three uses of "may" in the first paragraph quoted from the document above--how completely does either $5 cash or between $8 and $12 of in-kind services, received at least ten years after the harm, compensate them?
E. Bonus question: how much does funding "two public interest groups that care about and work on privacy issues" compensate or assist the damaged parties in C?
2. For those who respond, "Yes, but the amount Time Warner pays will deter them from further heinous acts," please answer the following questions.
A. The document clearly states that a subscriber selecting one of the free services will be billed for it after the free month ends, unless the subscriber cancels it. What percentage of subscribers selecting a free service will forget to cancel and therefore mistakenly pay for something they didn't want?
B. Is your answer for 2A bigger or smaller than your answer for 1C?
C. Time Warner Cable, from time to time, offers limited periods of free premium channels and free movies on demand. What percentage of such "free" service--actually, advertising--will Time Warner Cable simply replace with the services they are required to provide by this settlement?
D. In the long run, a for-profit, unsubsidized business must recover its full economic cost of providing its product or else it will stop producing. Presuming that Time Warner Cable is 1) a for-profit, unsubsidized business, and 2) even if its contractual or regulatory environment is unusual--I don't know any of the details--it still must cover its cost, then how much will Time Warner Cable raise its prices, or cut its services, to pay for any higher net costs it may incur because of this settlement? In answering, note that for at least the short- and intermediate-terms, Time Warner has, in my area at least, very little, poor competition in supplying cable TV services (as far as I know, just Direct TV). (But I don't know the extent of potential competition, however.)
3. Extra credit questions: How much does a Chief Privacy Officer earn, and describe, in detail, what occupies his or her time, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year.
For each complete and correct set of answers submitted to me, I will award the submitter $5 divided by the number of forms received, or 1/10,000 of my settlement amount--less postage cost--from Time Warner Cable, whichever is smaller, on or after June 30, 2018.
Subject to the court's certification of the class.
And if I feel like it.