Charter apologizes for deleting 14,000 customer e-mail files

Thursday, January 24, 2008 | 11:39 a.m. CST; updated 6:40 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

ST. LOUIS — Charter Communications officials believe a software error is to blame after 14,000 customer e-mail files were mistakenly deleted.

The accident happened Monday as Charter was performing routine maintenance. The mistake did not eliminate the e-mail accounts but deleted e-mails from the inbox and saved folders, including photos, officials from Charter said.

“We really are sincerely sorry for having had this happen and do apologize to all those folks who were affected by the error,” said Anita Lamont, a spokeswoman for the suburban St. Louis-based company.

Charter is one of the nation’s largest cable TV operators but also provides telephone service and high-speed Internet. Each new Internet user gets a free e-mail account.

But some choose not to use Charter e-mail, opting instead for Web-based e-mail accounts from providers like Hotmail and Yahoo. Every three months the company performs routine maintenance to delete inactive accounts, Lamont said.

“During this maintenance we erroneously deleted active accounts along with the others,” Lamont said. “Its never happened before. They are taking steps to make sure it never happens again.”

Lamont said there is no way to retrieve the lost files. Computer experts say users should back up all important e-mail.

Charter provides service in 29 states, and Lamont said the affected customers were scattered around the country. The company has about 2.6 million high-speed Internet subscribers.

To help make up for the error, Charter automatically applied a $50 credit to the bill of each customer with a deleted e-mail account.

Lamont said she didn’t know how many calls customer service had received about the mishap.

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