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FCC Fines Comcast For Unwanted Service Charges

The FCC fined Comcast $2.3 million for placing unauthorized items on users’ bills. The settlement, which Comcast agreed to, will also help guard against this happening again in the next few years, but it falls short of fixing the problem permanently.

Comcast was engaging in a practice the FCC refers to as “Negative Option Billing.” Essentially, the idea is to place charges on a user’s bill, and then see if the customer makes contact in an attempt to resolve the issue. Comcast then provided the service or piece of equipment it charged for. If the customer contacted Comcast, then they could return the unwanted equipment. The company would issue a refund for any undesired services. If the customer didn’t contact Comcast to resolve the issue, however, then they were stuck with the additional charges.

Although the FCC did not say how many incidents were reported, it is likely that Comcast succeeded in charging users for unwanted service and equipment without the user noticing or requesting a refund. The FCC said that users were often uninformed of the additional charges until they reviewed their monthly bill or the unexpected equipment arrived in the mail.

After customers realized that Comcast had charged them for unwanted services, they still needed to go through the arduous task of contacting Comcast to attain a refund. The FCC said that the users who reported the issue spent significant amounts of time and energy trying to resolve it.

Sometimes Comcast charged users for a service after they explicitly declined it.

“It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “We expect all cable and phone companies to take responsibility for the accuracy of their bills and to ensure their customers have authorized any charges.”

For Comcast, a $2.3 million fine may pale in comparison to how much the company made from the illegal business practice. In the settlement, Comcast also agreed to adopt a new set of procedures to help avoid this type of issue from reoccurring. Part of these new procedures requires Comcast to send users order confirmation notices separately from the typical billing statement. Comcast is also required to give customers a new account option, which will block the company from adding any new services or equipment to their accounts.

The problem with the settlement, however, is that Comcast only has to follow these new procedures for the next five years. Clearly, the illegality of the practice didn’t stop Comcast before, and it’s unlikely to prevent it from doing the same thing in the future. This is especially true if the amount Comcast made from this illegal practice is greater than the $2.3 million fine.

In the grand scheme of things, it seems the FCC really should have pressed for harsher terms in the settlement, but at least the agreement should help protect customers in the near future.

  • LFCavalcanti
    I'm surprised the USA don't have a law stating that companies can't charge products or services they don't have explicit concent from the consumer. Even here in Brazil this is very clear in law.
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    18716160 said:
    I'm surprised the USA don't have a law stating that companies can't charge products or services they don't have explicit concent from the consumer. Even here in Brazil this is very clear in law.

    We do have that law. Comcast broke it, and was fined for it.
    Reply
  • targetdrone
    Total slap on the wrist if you ask me. $2 million dollars is nothing to Comcast and they'll make up for that loss by raising rates again and then come up with a new illegal billing practice to rip off customers once again.

    The only way to stop this type of behavior is to start throwing CEOs and other high level people in jail.
    Reply
  • targetdrone
    18716160 said:
    I'm surprised the USA don't have a law stating that companies can't charge products or services they don't have explicit concent from the consumer. Even here in Brazil this is very clear in law.

    In America you can buy the laws you want, you just need to write a big enough check.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    The FCC Fines Comcast For Unwanted Service Charges.

    Comcast fines customers to pay fine.

    It's a vicious cycle.
    Reply
  • targetdrone
    18716195 said:
    The FCC Fines Comcast For Unwanted Service Charges.

    Comcast fines customers to pay fine.

    It's a vicious cycle.

    It's basic economics. Companies do not pay taxes or fines because they always pass those costs onto the consumer.
    Reply
  • DookieDraws
    Damn making them pay a weak fine! Why don't the FCC make Comeycast lower all current customer's bills by 50% for the next year or so? Quit playing with these bass turds and show them you mean business, FCC. Put a hurtin' on them like they've been doing us customers for so long. Until Comeycast is severely punished, they will continue their dishonest, unlawful ways.

    What a joke!
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    This went on for a while because not enough people spoke up about it loud enough. Many probably weren't even aware they were getting nickel and dimed illegally.

    I cannot emphasize enough that this is what we Americans have representatives in Congress for. If US House Representatives and US Senators get enough emails from people across the nation complaining about the same thing, they will listen and take action.

    This needs legislative action and changes to the laws and penalties. Contacting the FCC directly to complain won't do much other than band aid the problem as seen here.

    Reply
  • jeremy2020
    Oh, no, 2.3 million. I'm sure they'll never take advantage of their customers again.

    These CEOs who make this a business practice need to start going to jail.
    Reply
  • GorillaMike713
    Blah. I'm glad I'm leaving Comcast for Google Fiber (about to be available in my area. Comcast sucks @$$
    Reply