Feds Order Comcast to Cough Up Millions for Shady Billing Practices

Image: AP
Image: AP

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.

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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.”

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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.

[The Verge]

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Sophie is a former news editor at Gizmodo.

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DISCUSSION

DennyCraneDennyCraneDennyCrane
DennyCraneDennyCraneDennyCrane

Oh good, since my last tale of Comcast “service” was so well received, I’ll share another! Keep in mind, I have been a victim customer of Comcast for less than 4 years, and I still have more tales of Comcast fuckery I haven’t shared...

So, on not one, but two separate occasions, Comcast started charging me a rental fee for a cable modem I owned. I do not, and have never used a rental modem through Comcast. The first time I caught it was fairly simple, I noticed the charge, called them up, the refunded me the money and apologized.

Then started doing it again a few months later. I called and complained again, but this time they required I provide proof of purchase of my (now several years old cable modem) before they would refund the money they were charging me for my own cable modem.

Luckily, I purchased the modem through Amazon, and thus had a nice invoice of it (once I dug far enough back to find it).

Oh, and I had to FAX them the invoice. No other method was allowed.

Once I did all that, they refunded my money. Again. And pinky swore it would never happen again.

Of course, they recently started charging me for a cable box of theirs that destroyed my television, but that’s a story I’ve already told...