It's 2021 And Bullshit Broadband And Cable TV Fees Are Somehow Still A Thing

from the you'd-think-we-would-have-fixed-this-by-now dept

For years we've talked about how the broadband and cable industry has perfected the use of utterly bogus fees to jack up subscriber bills -- a dash of financial creativity it adopted from the banking and airline industries. Countless cable and broadband companies tack on a myriad of completely bogus fees below the line, letting them advertise one rate -- then sock you with a higher rate once your bill actually arrives. These companies will then brag repeatedly about how they haven't raised rates yet this year, when that's almost never actually the case.

One 2019 Consumer Reports study found that about 24% of consumer bills are comprised of bullshit fees, generating cable giants $28 billion in additional revenue annually. The problem is just as bad over in broadband (see Centurylink's utterly nonsensical "Internet Cost Recovery" fee). Often cable and broadband companies will try to give such fees official-sounding names like "regulatory recovery" so that consumers falsely blame government for being nickel-and-dimed. But between TV fees, hardware fees, usage fees, and other surcharges, bundled customers dole out a small fortune every year for absolutely nothing.

It's fraud, but fraud that has somehow been normalized over decades.

I've been writing about this problem for the better part of twenty years, so it's disheartening to see the Washington Post still covering this bullshit in 2021 without much having changed:

"Most of the price hike that I didn’t expect was Comcast sneaking in additional “fees” — not taxes, just expenses related to Comcast’s cost of doing business. I’m paying $27.05 on top of my bundle price for Comcast’s cable service to carry local broadcast networks and pro sports games. Yes, my Comcast bill, [Consumer Reports senior counsel Jonathan] Schwantes said, isn’t as bad as many others he has seen, which can include 12 or more line-item fees. Some companies, he added, try to make people think their fees are government taxes, but they’re not.

Amusingly, Comcast tries to pass off falsely advertising low prices then socking users with bullshit fees as some kind of consumer benefit:

"Comcast tells me this is exactly what its customers want. It said it disclosed its copious additional fees to me in various fine-print communications — though only after I entered my credit card number. “We conduct extensive consumer research and host focus groups and incorporate our findings into the way we present information to our customers, all in an effort to help ensure they have a positive experience and can easily understand the details of their service,” said Jennifer Khoury, Comcast’s chief communications officer."

By and large, federal regulators couldn't give any less of a shit about this problem. That leaves a patchwork collection of State AGs who'll occasionally dole out some light fines and flimsy wrist slaps. But that leaves most consumers utterly unprotected from being ripped off by their local cable TV or telecom company. As you can tell from similar behavior in the banking and airline industries, the federal government, at some point, just declared it perfectly okay to rip people off with utterly nonsensical fees, provided you're just marginally clever about it.

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Filed Under: bogus fees, broadband, cable, fees, hidden fees, price hikes, truth in advertising
Companies: comcast


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 5:20am

    Fee Suggestion for Comcast.

    The "You hurt my fee-fee fee: $4.00"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      murgatroyd (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 7:15am

      Re: Fee Suggestion for Comcast.

      You had to go and remind them.... Now we'll get that one, plus a $4 "You pointed out that we forgot to charge you for something" fee.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 8:34am

        Re: Re: Fee Suggestion for Comcast.

        a bit after that they'll straight-up hit you with a lobbying fee, because why not break out everything second time and sock it to the customer.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 8:47am

      Re: Fee Suggestion for Comcast.

      Why not just call it the "Because fuck you, That's why Fee"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 7:22am

    same old, same old

    same story for decades:

    Fees and prices constantly rise
    Lack of competition always the intermediate cause
    Those in political authority like this status quo
    Solution = modify political authority involved

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 19 Jul 2021 @ 7:41am

    A rose by any other name

    "...broadband companies will try to give such fees official-sounding names like "regulatory recovery" ..."

    The reality is, the fees should be called, "Regulatory Capture".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 7:50am

    This problem is not going to be solved until ...

    ... either there's serious competition or there's serious regulation, neither of which either party as the stomach for, and both of which the incumbents pay them to prevent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 8:49am

      Re: This problem is not going to be solved until ...

      You need serious regulation to open up the final mile, so that competing ISPs can exist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 9:52am

    to long a list.

    The current owners are not the builders of the past.
    Those that are installed as managers and owners Dont know 1/2 of what is needed.

    Our gov. and states have been dealing with the corps along time. And the Fines and fee's charged against them seen to be from the 1800's. Its as the state taxes on Fuel, are Not based on a percentage, they are fixed. And as time changes they do not represent the Current detriments/deturents that Money can cause to a person that Makes allot of money. Its like the cost of a Ice cream cone to a poor kid over a Rich person.
    Fines and fees are supposed to Hurt and Dissuade, not be the cost of an ice cream cone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 9:53am

      Re: to long a list.

      The other part of this, even with Fines and fee's, is WHO gets the money. The group that went to court? the State or fed? or everyone concerned, that has been wronged by the corps.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 11:18am

    it's not just in the USA either. other countries are going down the same route of charging exorbitant monthly fees for supplying services which are as piss poor as those in the USA, with equally as piss poor customer service and equally piss poor repair and replace installations! and it's all off the back of corrupt politicians in the USA sitting around doing nothing to rein in the 'big 3' of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon or even any of the smaller companies, prefering to continue to line their own pockets rather than do what needs doing for the voters they represent!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 19 Jul 2021 @ 11:23am

    Let's see those focus groups, Comcast!

    As a former UX researcher, I would LOVE to see Comcast make available the focus groups they've carried out where consumers asked for fees to be hidden in fine print, and wanted to see advertised prices NOT include those fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 11:41am

    "all in an effort to help ensure they have a positive experience"

    We know this is BS... all consumers would definitely prefer you used KY instead of sandpaper when fscking them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 19 Jul 2021 @ 11:50am

    Conflict of conflict of conflict of interest..

    "interest" being a key here.
    These businesses make up whatever fees they want to increase their bottom line.
    The government regulates these businesses and enables and allows them to charge whatever they want to increase their stock value and returns for their investors.
    Social Security Trust Funds invest heavily in these industries, and rely on them making an excessive rate of return and dividends paying high interest.

    There is ZERO chance of this circle jerk being resolved in the consumers favor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 4:48pm

    Often cable and broadband companies will try to give such fees official-sounding names like "regulatory recovery" so that consumers falsely blame government for being nickel-and-dimed. ... It's fraud, but fraud that has somehow been normalized over decades.

    The same is true of actual government fees, including taxes—unless the government introduced those fees between the time of the advertisement and the purchase, the company was advertising something it never had any intent of providing. In most of the world, a person who signs up to a "$20/month" service will see bills of... $20/month. Imagine that. Advertising one price and charging another would be called fraud. Somehow that became normalized in the USA, with respect to sales taxes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 6:22pm

    All that time Richard Bennett spent on his knees has to pay off somehow.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jul 2021 @ 8:46pm

    We didn't raise prices, we just removed channels and charged the same price. It's different. Like when Haagen Daas went from 16 to 14 oz and Ben and Jerry's raised the price and kept it a full pint.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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