Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Comcast’s response. (See below.)
On Tuesday, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau reported that Comcast will pay a $2.3 million fine to resolve an investigation into whether the company wrongfully charged cable TV subscribers for services and equipment not authorized by them.
The FCC notes in a statement that it received complaints from consumers alleging that Comcast added charges to their bills for unordered services or products, including premium channels, set-tops or DVRs. Some subscribers are said to have claimed that they were billed despite specifically declining service or equipment upgrades. In other reported complaints, customers claimed that they had no knowledge of the unauthorized charges until they received unordered equipment in the mail, obtained notifications of unrequested account changes by email or saw charges in monthly bills.
According to the Commission, under the terms of the settlement, Comcast “will pay the largest civil penalty assessed from a cable operator by the FCC and implement a five-year compliance plan.” The operator will reportedly “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 describing newly added products and their associated charges, the FCC says. Further, Comcast will offer the ability to block the addition of new services or equipment to accounts at no added cost. Finally, the FCC settlement is said to require Comcast to implement a detailed program for redressing disputed charges in “a standardized and expedient fashion, and limits adverse action (such as referring an account to collections or suspending service) while a disputed charge is being investigated.”
Here is the Comcast response:
“We have been working very hard on improving the experience of our customers in all respects and are laser-focused on this. We acknowledge that, in the past, our customer service should have been better and our bills clearer, and that customers have at times been unnecessarily frustrated or confused. That’s why we had already put in place many improvements to do better for our customers even before the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau started this investigation almost two years ago. The changes the Bureau asked us to make were in most cases changes we had already committed to make, and many were already well underway or in our work plan to implement in the near future.
“We do not agree with the Bureau’s legal theory here, and in our view, after two years, it is telling that it found no problematic policy or intentional wrongdoing, but just isolated errors or customer confusion. We agree those issues should be fixed and are pleased to put this behind us and proceed with these customer service-enhancing changes.”
Filed Under: Industry regulations