An article published by Internet newspaper “Fontanka.ru” entitled Dangerous Drop Cables contains comments made by lawyer Tatyana Usatenko
Many Petersburgers can unexpectedly become debtors in respect of housing rent inclusive of considerable amounts charged by “Telekompaniya Sankt-Peterburgskoye kabelnoye televideniye”. TKT charges individuals who may never be its clients, and even do not watch TV at all. Lawyers believe this scheme to be an illegal one.
The company is positive that even an unsubscribed user of drop cable is an abonent, and is liable to pay for the cable TV services. Debts accrued shall be included in consolidated invoice along with housing rent and utility payments. And it is practically non-voidable.
Domestic drop cables of community antennas were once transferred to ТКТ (“Tvoye TV”, etc. trademarks), today the largest cable TV operator in Russia. As a consequence many Petersburgers began to receive TV signal not from the roof of their house, but from the company linking system. This being said, they did nothing very much to this effect, and their TV set is still connected to the usual wall outlet.
A fee for cable TV service is included in consolidated invoice in housing. Other providers of cable TV services operate in the same way, which is convenient both to operators and tenants
However, by no means all Petersburgers whose flats are connected to TKT, have made contracts with this company. Some of them, for instance, moved to an apartment they bought from some persons, and are unaware of a drop cable, say, embedded in a wall, they have never used it and are unwilling to receive services of «drop cable monopolist». To reveal unpaid connections, ТКТ carries out the so-called inspection of user drop cables involving special visiting teams. Having discovered a" superfluous" cable, the company workers shall leave (in mail boxes or in doorways) a notice addressed to the tenants offering to sign a contract. Any tenant wishing to cut off the cable shall visit the company office and submit a written application related to the issue. Otherwise ТКТ shall not cut off the drop cable, but rather “set the meter running”, i. e. it shall charge customer for using telecommunications services. And the company does so for the benefit of subscribers and for the purposes of self-defense (!): Maria Hitarishvili, spokeswoman of the company, explained that “A TV cable connected to our equipment is the property of tenant, and, consequently, we have no right to interfere with such property without consent of its owner. Should an individual fail to regulate relations (with the company), “TKT" OJSC shall reserve the right to take measures stipulated by legislation to protect its legitimate interests, which includes exercising a right of self-defense, by pressing a customer for payment.
We do not impose our services on consumers, we only take measures to protect our rights and legitimate interests as a property owner and a person providing socially important services, on a city-wide scale which is related to public safety. Sometimes clients are unaware of using several drop cables in parallel, that’s why such inspections are an excellent way to prevent excessive expenses incurred by clients,” the company believes.
Rule without dividing In the company estimation, all Petersburgers whose flats are fitted with a “TKT” drop cable, are subscribers of the company, and invoices are issued “based on services actually rendered and conditions of public agreement”. An internal source explained to Fontanka reporter that, in legal terms, the “TKT” procedure is as follows: there is a public offer to make contract; if an individual continues to use the drop cable, it means an implied acceptance of the said offer. Thus, an agreement is entered into with all the consequences that come with it.
However, according to the interviewed lawyers, such model can contradict the law. First, as Maria Hitarishvili admitted, even the company website doesn’t contain the public agreement as such: so the matter of getting acquainted with it remains a puzzle. According to “Fontanka”, it has been published in a municipal newspaper four years ago (obviously, the ТКТ lawyers believed that all Petersburgers should read and remember this specific newspaper issue).
Secondly: rules on rendering communication service for the purposes of TV and/or radio broadcasting adopted by the government of Russia in 2006, stipulate an unambiguous procedure to be used for making contract with subscribers: an individual should submit a written application. “The possibility of making contract using a procedure of issuing a public offer and subsequent implied acceptance of the said offer is not stipulated by rules,” said Tatyana Usatenko, attorney of law firm” S&K Vertical”,”Thus, subscriber’s actions connected with actual use of telecommunication services cannot be regarded as acceptance of public offer issued by service provider and, consequently, these actions do not entail contractual legal relationship between the above persons.”
As a result “ТКТ” has the right to disconnect only an unpaid drop cable – it is a simple, legal and logic solution. The company shall suffer no damages, and the goal of self-defense shall be attained. Should a tenant be in real need of drop cable, he shall contact the company on his own initiative to sign a contract.
According to Tatyana Usatenko, including the subscription fee into the housing rent is also illegal. After all, the cable communication service is not included in the list of utilities approved by the government of Russia (these are cold and hot water supply, electro- and gas supply, water disposal and heating) However, it will be difficult to challenge an order of the St.-Petersburg Housing committee which has approved the so-called “pink” form: officially referred to as “form of invoice on housing, utility and other services”.
Theoretically on may refuse to settle a consolidated invoice, to fill in an “orange” form at one’s own discretion and to indicate the amount of monthly payment net of accrued “ТКТ” charge. However a debt shall accrue on on the client account from month to month – the procedure of refusal to pay for a part of services (including “other”) is not stipulated by municipal legislation. And for settlements centre of VCKP which issues invoices, the data submitted by its partner are final and cannot be appealed.