A new survey has found that an exorbitant number of cable customers may be paying their TV providers hefty hidden fees amounting to hundreds of dollars annually.
A cable bill survey of 2,057 U.S. adults in 2018 by Consumer Reports found that a staggering 85 percent have encountered surprise or hidden fees—especially non-government imposed fees and those different from fees outlined by the company for the service—in recent years. In examining consumer-submitted bills, Consumer Reports found that these hidden costs tack on 24 percent of the service’s base price to consumers’ monthly bills.
In examining almost 800 bills for cable services, Consumer Reports found that those fees can be for anything from set-top box rentals to broadcast and regional sports fees. Consumer Reports said that based on its nationally representative survey results, it estimates cable companies may be pulling in roughly $28 billion annually from these charges. These charges result in about $450 per consumer annually in additional costs on average, the report said.
Consumer Reports specifically named Comcast as one such company charging customers for extra services like broadcast TV surcharges. Extra charges for broadcast TV and regional sports in 2015 amounted to about $2.50 a month but now cost customers around $18.25 in additional costs on their monthly bill, the report said.
In a letter sent in May of last year to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and the heads of 10 other leading cable providers, Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel at Consumer Reports, urged “all pay-TV providers and ISPs to include the full cost of service in the base price so that consumers know the actual price they will pay, and can effectively compare the prices of different services.”
In a June response, Comcast EVP and General Counsel Lynn Charytan defended these fees as being disclosed in “rate cards, advertising, online, and during the ordering process,” and attributed the fees to a “vastly expanded” service value as well as rising costs of sports programming and broadcast television. Charytan added that “customers must affirmatively consent to all of the charges associated with their order—including the specific BTV and RSN fees that apply to their services—prior to the order being placed.”
“With the proliferation of add-on fees, it’s nearly impossible for consumers to find out the full cost of a cable package before they get locked into a contract—and cable companies count on this,” Schwantes said in a statement. “These confusing, often misleadingly named charges continue to drive up consumer bills, even if you lock in a promotional rate.”