Comcast faces class-action suit over broadcast and RSN add-on fees

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A group of eight plaintiffs across seven states have filed suit against Comcast, alleging that the MSO charged bogus fees to access broadcast and regional sports network channels.

The suit was filed in San Francisco and centers around charges outside Comcast’s advertised price for cable TV services, including the “broadcast TV fee.” Introduced in 2014, that charge tacks on as much as $6.50 to subscribers monthly bill, determined by the amount of broadcast retransmission money Comcast has to pay in a particular market. The suit says this charge amounts to consumer fraud, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and breach of contract. 

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"Comcast not only charged the fee to new customers, but also added the charge to the bills of existing customers in violation of their contracts which had promised a flat monthly rate for the term of the contract," lead plaintiff Dan Adkins of California said in the 79-page complaint.

The suit also said that since 2015, Comcast raised its broadcast TV fee by 333 percent — from $1.50 to $6.50 in several markets.

The suit also implicates Comcast for its regional sports network fee, which also exists outside advertised pricing. Introduced last year, the plaintiffs say the RSN fee has increased by 350 percent to $4.50 a month in several markets. 

“We have been working to make it easier for customers to understand what they’re paying for, which is why we list the Broadcast TV and Regional Sports fee separately on the bill and include disclaimers about them in our advertising,” Comcast said in a statement emailed to FierceCable. “It’s also worth noting that the complaint itself demonstrates that these fees are disclosed and that they’re not part of promotional pricing.”

“Comcast applies these fee increases to all customers, even to those in the middle of one-year or two-year contracts at a promised fixed monthly rate,” the suit said. “By increasing these fees in the middle of the contract term, Comcast has found a way to secretly and repeatedly increase the monthly price it charges for its channel packages despite its promise to charge a flat rate for one or two years.”

The complaint added: “Comcast intentionally does not explain or define what the Broadcast TV Fee and the Regional Sports Fee are – even in the fine print. Instead, Comcast deceptively groups these ‘fees’ in the fine print with ‘taxes and fees, including regulatory recovery fees.’ A consumer reading the fine print would reasonably assume the Broadcast TV Fee and the Regional Sports Fee relate to government fees or taxes.”

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