Comcast says over-billings were unintentional after FCC slaps it with $2.3 million fine

Comcast

Comcast will pay a $2.3 million fine to resolve an FCC investigation into the cable company’s billing practices, the agency said.

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau had investigated after what the agency called numerous complaints of the MSO charging for products and services that weren’t ordered. 

“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. “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.”

A Comcast spokesperson told FierceCable that the company has worked with FCC to resolve the issues, which stemmed from “mistakes” and not an intentional effort to deceive customers. The rep said that many of the issues pre-date the company’s $300 million customer service overhaul.

"We have been working very hard on improving the experience of our customers in all respects and are laser-focused on this,” Comcast said in its official statement. “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.”

The Comcast rep said the fine is based largely on a new interpretation of so-called “negative option billing,” which puts the burden of checking and ridding unwanted products and services on customer. 

On the scale of investigations, Comcast’s fine is modest. 

Two years ago, AT&T was fined $105 million by the FCC for alleged “cramming” of wireless services and products.

According to the FCC, customers uncovered unordered services and products, such as premium channels, set-top boxes and DVRs, often not discovering the issue until they reviewed their bills. The agency said that customers also complained of spending significant time and energy to resolve the over-billings. 

Again, Comcast said mistakes were made, but they weren’t intentional. 

“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.,” Comcast added. “We agree those issues should be fixed and are pleased to put this behind us and proceed with these customer service-enhancing changes."

For more:
- read this FCC press release

Related articles:
Report: Comcast under investigation by FCC and DOJ for possibly violating 2011 NBCU purchase mandates
Comcast: Washington AG’s suit a ‘profound mischaracterization’
Comcast 'grossly misrepresented' service protection plan, Washington State Attorney General says