Comcast has been ordered to pay a $2.3 million fine — the biggest the Federal Communications Commission has ever levied against a cable company. Why was it hit with such a hefty amount? For charging customers for equipment that they never asked for.
According to the FCC, the agency received multiple complaints from customers about “negative option billing,” which basically means that customers got charged for things that they never officially requested, such as premium channels, DVRs, and set-top boxes.
“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 FCC’s enforcement bureau, in a statement.
The FCC didn’t give much information on particular complaints, but it did indicate that customers had “no knowledge of unauthorized charges until they received unordered equipment in the mail.” In some cases, they were even “billed despite specifically declining service or equipment upgrades offered by Comcast.”
On top of having to pay the fines, Comcast will also have to implement a “five-year compliance plan,” effective immediately, which basically means that the company will have to adopt new business practices designed to ensure that it has received the affirmative consent of customers. This implies that Comcast wasn’t aware of such basic business practices previously, but it at least should be in the future.
The company also has to issue confirmation letters that are more clearly written and aren’t hidden in bills, and must give customers the ability to easily block new services at no extra cost.
On top of all that, Comcast will have to compensate customers and address complaints from those who have disputed charges — so if you’re one of those people, you should expect a refund or notice from Comcast in the near future.