FCC: Comcast Routinely Charges Customers For Hardware, Services Never Ordered
from the earning-your-awful-reputation dept
When you’re among the worst ranked companies for customer service in America, you consistently need to find new ways to ramp up your game if you want to take malicious incompetence to the next level. Enter Comcast, which despite constant promises that it’s getting better, routinely keeps finding itself in the headlines for immeasurably shady business practices. Earlier this year, for example, the company was sued by Washington’s Attorney General for charging users a $5 per month “Service Protection Plan,” then routinely and intentionally charging users for repairs that should have been covered under it.
This week, America’s least-liked companies is finding itself in the headlines for another misleading practice: errantly and routinely billing customers for hardware or services they never ordered. According to a new FCC announcement, Comcast will be paying the agency $2.3 million to settle an investigation into the behavior. According to the FCC, Comcast apparently likes to charge customers for premium cable channels, hardware, or other services the customer never ordered and may have expressly refused:
“The Commission received numerous complaints from consumers alleging that Comcast added charges to their bills for unordered services or products, such as premium channels, set-top boxes, or digital video recorders (DVRs). In some complaints, subscribers claimed that they were billed despite specifically declining service or equipment upgrades offered by Comcast. In others, 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 conducted a review of their monthly bills.”
This being Comcast, the FCC notes that impacted customers had to spend “significant time and energy” removing the charges from their bills. After all, this is the company that routinely refuses to correct its own mistakes unless the practice in question gets significant media attention.
While not specifically mentioned in the FCC’s announcement, Comcast also has a long, proud history of charging customers who own their own modem a $10 rental fee anyway. This has been a problem customers have faced for years, yet seems to never stop occurring no matter how many complaints or regulatory wrist slaps the cable giant receives. In this case, the FCC states the obvious:
“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.”
The problem of course is that Comcast likely made significantly more than $2.3 million on this scheme. And the FCC may also want to hold off on the celebration; while the FCC did give Comcast a wrist slap in this instance, there’s also a long-standing practice of Comcast and other ISPs and cable companies using misleading below-the-line fees to jack up the advertised rate of both TV and broadband services. And then there’s the ongoing issue of Comcast’s expanding and anti-competitive usage caps and overage fees, which nobody at the FCC seems all too concerned about.
So while it’s good the FCC is cracking down on this kind of fraud, it’s just tap dancing around the opening of a very deep, dark rabbit hole of dysfunction, one that has long-since passed from minor inconvenience into legend.