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ADELPHIA CABLE WAIVES BOX FEE AFTER HOME BLAZE

Q: My place burned down three days before Christmas 2004. In the beginning of January, I called Adelphia Communications to cancel my cable service, and was told that I was paid up.

On March 26, I received a $273.54 bill from Adelphia that didn't explain anything. After calling them about it, Adelphia said that I owed them for the cable converter box which burned up. I lost everything I had.

Adelphia recommended that I submit it to my insurance company, but I have no insurance. They told me I was responsible for the box. I had cable service for a long time, and always paid my bills on time.

- Harold Lear, Blasdell.

A: It's your lucky day. Adelphia decided to waive the converter box charge and not hold you responsible for it.

An Adelphia customer service representative promptly called you after we contacted them about your problem. "Mr. Lear has been a customer since 1974, and a subscriber for a long time at a pretty significant level of service. Based on his history, we took the charges off and waived them," said Jeanne Coleman, Adelphia Communications general manager.

Coleman said Adelphia doesn't always waive charges like that regularly. "We don't do it all the time, but because he has a good history and he's a very long-term customer and always paid his bills on time, the customer service representative made a judgment call. It's just part of something we would do," she said.

However, Adelphia officials stressed that such equipment is expensive and can cost between $200 and $500 per converter box. "Equipment is expensive. If a box is lost or damaged, we charge the customer for it," Coleman said.

Initially, Adelphia held firm and told us that customers are typically responsible for such equipment, even in the case of a fire, accident or theft.

"When you rent a converter box from Adelphia, you're responsible for it," Coleman said. "It is true - even if it was because of an accident or if it was stolen - that we'd ask them to submit it through their insurance."

When we explained to Adelphia that you had no insurance, Coleman said Adelphia sometimes works out payment plans with customers, but they offered to call you right away and ended up waiving the charges.

Follow note

Finally, some burnable firewood for Anthony Prezioso of the Town of Tonawanda. Firewood supplier William Cowell in North Tonawanda ended up coming through after Prezioso complained to us that he received wet, moldy firewood from Cowell during the winter. "Bill did have someone drop wood off at my house. It's not too bad this time," Prezioso told us in a message. "The length is much better."