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Is your cable company ripping you off?

Is your cable company ripping you off?
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

I don't think Comcast has ever been anyone's favorite company. In fact, it was voted 2014's (and 2010's) Worst Company in America for a slew of different reasons, including charging customers for products and services they didn't order.

Known as "negative option billing," Comcast would charge its customers for things like set-top boxes, premium channels and DVRs, even if the customer didn't order them, or actively cancel them. However, in some cases, customers report still being charged after cancellations.

Negative option billing then forces the customer to call Comcast to dispute and cancel the charges. Given Comcast's customer service record, that's a headache and a half. That's exactly why the practice is banned under the FCC's rules and regulations, along with another practice called "cramming," which is the same thing, except with phone bills.

As punishment, the FCC has fined Comcast $2.3 million for overbilling its customers. The FCC says it's "the largest civil penalty" it's ever ordered.

Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau said in a statement: “It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less. 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.”

Comcast, however, feels different about the issue and is blaming its customers for the confusion. Here's Comcast's full and official statement:

We have been working very hard on improving the experience of our customers in all respects and are laser-focused on this. We acknowledge that, in the past, our customer service should have been better and our bills clearer, and that customers have at times been unnecessarily frustrated or confused. That’s why we had already put in place many improvements to do better for our customers even before the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau started this investigation almost two years ago. The changes the Bureau asked us to make were in most cases changes we had already committed to make, and many were already well underway or in our work plan to implement in the near future.

We do not agree with the Bureau’s legal theory here, and in our view, after two years, it is telling that it found no problematic policy or intentional wrongdoing, but just isolated errors or customer confusion. We agree those issues should be fixed and are pleased to put this behind us and proceed with these customer service-enhancing changes.

As part of the settlement, Comcast began a five-year compliance plan and will also put new procedures in place to make sure its customers aren't billed for services they don't want. Comcast is required to make its bills easier to read and understand and also put a program in place for expedited services when disputing a bill or other charges.

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Source: FCC
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