The Federal Communications Commission dropped a hammer on cable and internet provider Comcast, ordering it to pay a $2.3 million fine because the company improperly charged customers.
In a statement, the FCC said, “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.”
The practice, known as “negative option billing”, is prohibited by the FCC.
“Negative option billing burdens customers with the responsibility of contacting a cable company to
dispute the charges and obtain refunds,” the statement from the FCC says. “The Communications Act and the FCC’s rules prohibit a similar practice by telecommunications carriers when unauthorized charges are placed on customers’ phone bills, an abuse known as ‘cramming.’”
Comcast released a statement saying the FCC did not find any intentional wrongdoing on the company’s part.
“We do not agree with the [Enforcement] 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,” the company said. “We agree those issues should be fixed and are pleased to put this behind us and proceed with these customer service-enhancing changes.”
Locally, Comcast is facing intense pressure as Google Fiber works to bring high-speed internet to the Atlanta Market. Comcast and AT&T have worked to increase their internet speeds before Fiber becomes widely-available.