Family errantly charged for hundreds of porn flicks

Maria Romero signed up with cable TV company Astound years ago and always paid around $74 per month. Then one day, out of the blue, Maria received a bill from Astound that was astounding.

"It was in the amount of $2,000, so much money, I was shocked," she said.

Her modest cable bill had suddenly shot up to $2,088. But the real shock came when Maria looked at the list of charges.

"I started turning the pages and it said 'adult movies,' my, I mean, I was in shock, I was in shock," she said.

According to the bill, the Romero's had suddenly ordered not just a few, but hundreds of pornographic movies; as many as 10-15 adult flicks in a single day. At $12.95 apiece, the charges added up fast.

Maria called the company and said no way she and her husband suddenly ordered all that porn.

"My bill was normal for so many years and then all of a sudden that happened," she said. "I said, 'No, it can't be, I'm not going to pay for something we haven't watched.'"

Maria thought the matter was resolved, but it only got worse. The next month, Astound charged the Romero's for hundreds more porn flicks with graphic names. Her bill had now doubled to $4,333.

Maria says nobody can watch that much.

"We don't watch those programs and they were still saying they were ours and there were 15 movies in one day now," she said. "Who could watch 15 movies in one day? It's ridiculous."

Maria said the charges were doubly impossible because she had placed a block on any orders of adult movies and only she knew the code to remove it. Not only that, she said, but her cable box serial number did not match the one that Astound said had placed the orders.

Still, Astound said someone in the home had removed the block and ordered the movies and Maria was responsible.

The following month, even more porn flicks appeared on Maria's bill, bringing her total charges to $5,260. Maria refused to pay all that money. Astound cut off service.

"That's when I decided to go and call somebody from 7 On Your Side," she said.

7 On Your Side contacted Astound. The company said it could not discuss any specifics because of privacy laws, but it said there was no equipment malfunction and ordering movies requires "action by someone in the customer's home." Still, the company agreed to remove all of the charges, saying, "Ultimately we believe the customer is always right and consequently the charges in question have been waived."

"We don't owe anything and I'm so happy," Maria said. "So I thank Channel 7 because if it wasn't for them, I'd still be in that bind."

Astound would not comment on how or why the block on pornographic movies was removed in the Romero household. However, putting a block on movies you do not want to watch is still the best way to protect yourself from unwanted charges and protect kids from seeing X-rated movies.

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