In a win for frustrated Comcast customers everywhere, the FCC has ordered the vampiric media conglomerate to cough up $2.3 million—“the largest civil penalty assessed from a cable operator”— for sketchy billing practices.
The FCC announced the fine today. The punishment was handed down after the FCC received “numerous complaints” from consumers who accused Comcast of adding a bunch of stuff they never asked for to their cable bills, including premium channels, set-top boxes, and DVRs.
In a nice bit of schadenfreude, Travis LeBlanc, the head of the FCC’s enforcement bureau, called out Comcast for its very obviously shady behavior. “It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less,” LeBlanc said in a statement. The FCC’s rules ban cable companies from doing this kind of thing, which is apparently known as “negative option billing.”
Besides the fine, Comcast also has to “implement a five-year compliance plan,” which for any other company sounds terrible. But for Comcast, it sounds just great. The “compliance plan” will apparently include the following:
Specifically, Comcast will adopt processes and procedures designed to obtain affirmative informed consent from customers prior to charging them for any new services or equipment. Comcast will also send customers an order confirmation separate from any other bill, clearly and conspicuously describing newly added products and their associated charges. Further, Comcast will offer to customers, at no cost, the ability to block the addition of new services or equipment to their accounts.
In a statement to Variety, a Comcast spokeswoman said that while her company “[does] not agree with the Bureau’s legal theory here,” it’s nonetheless “pleased to put this behind us and proceed with these customer service-enhancing changes.” Better get cracking on that, Comcast.