Charter Communications: Honey, I deleted your mailbox!

A software error during routine maintenance at Charter Communications has resulted in the permanent deletion of 14,000 customer e-mail accounts. All contents in these email accounts, including messages, photos and other attachments have been erased and there is no way to retrieve contents from any folder.

Charter Communications is large cable TV operator in the U.S., and also provides telephone and high-speed Internet service. Charter provides service in 29 states and has about 2.6 million high-speed Internet subscribers. Charter gives each new Internet user a free e-mail account, but some customers opt to use other accounts instead. So every three months the company deletes inactive accounts. This gaffe apparently happened during one of those moments. Affected customers are not from a specific geographic area, but are from different parts of the Charter’s service areas. Charter will give a $50 credit to each customer affected by this “Oops” and is taking steps to make sure it never happens again. They Better!!!

Hopefully, Charter’s customer agreement has clauses freeing Charter from damages from lost email – such as lost business – otherwise, they’ll be in a lot more trouble if a customer sues Charter for loss of an important document – after all, people are known to use emails as a document repository of sorts.

I for one don’t use accounts from service providers because I don’t want to have an email associated with a specific service provider, don’t know when I might change my service provider, don’t want to take a chance with the service provider interrupting service for non-payment of bills and then deletes the email account, and mostly because there are better known email services around (think Yahoo!, Gmail, MSN Mail, etc).

Frankly, I’m surprised that the email boxes were not backed up! A good lesson for CIOs!