WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) — Comcast will pay a $2.3 million fine after allegations surfaced that it wrongfully charged cable TV customers for services and equipment that the consumers never authorized.
Numerous consumers complained about charges added to their bills that were never ordered. The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, as well as the federal Communications Act, bar cable providers from using a business practice known as “negative option billing,” which is generally regarded as charging consumers for services they never requested and putting the onus on them to dispute the charge and obtain refunds.
Additionally, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission bans a similar practice – “cramming” – which is when telecommunications carriers cram phone bills with unauthorized charges.
“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.”
In addition to the monetary penalty, Comcast must adopt a five-year compliance plan to make sure its business practices involve obtaining affirmative informed consent from consumers prior to any charges.