“It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer – nothing more and nothing less,” Travis LeBlanc, chief of the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau, said Tuesday. “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 commission received complaints from consumers that Comcast added charges to their bills for unordered services or products, such as premium channels, set-top boxes, or digital video recorders. In some complaints, subscribers said that they were billed even if they said no to service or equipment upgrades. Others customers said they didn’t know about the unauthorized charges until they received unordered equipment in the mail, got notices of unrequested changes by email, or looked at their monthly bills.
Consumers reported they spent large amounts of time and energy to try to remove the unauthorized charges from their bills and get refunds, the commission said.
Under the settlement, Comcast will pay the largest civil penalty for a cable operator by the commission and carry out a five-year compliance plan.
Comcast will adopt procedures to get consent from customers before charging them for new services or equipment, the commission said. It will also send customers an order confirmation separate from other bills, describing new products and related charges. In addition, customers will be able to block the addition of new services or equipment to their accounts.
Under the settlement, Comcast also is to make refunds promptly for disputed charges and limit action such as referring an account to collections or suspending service while these charges are being investigated.