Society

Customers Sue Comcast For Illegal Fee Hikes

| by Zach Cohen

Eight Comcast customers have filed a class action complaint against the cable giant for alleged "illegal and deceptive" billing practices.

The suit takes aim at two specific fees, the "Broadcast TV Fee" and the "Regional Sports Fee," reports Consumerist.

The Broadcast TV Fee was announced in 2013 as a way to offset the cost to the cable provider of carrying over-the-air networks. When it was introduced, the fee was $1.50. Currently, the fee stands at $6.50, according to the figures reported in the complaint. 

The Regional Sports Fee, which began in 2015, started at $1.00 and is now $4.50.

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The suit goes on to attest that these fees account for 15% of Comcast's annual profits, or over $1 billion per year.

"We have been working to make it easier for customers to understand what they're paying for," Comcast said in a statement to Ars Technica, "which is why we list the Broadcast TV and Regional Sports fee separately on the bill... ."

The plaintiffs say that the separate fee listings are deceptive. "Comcast intentionally does not include the costs of these fees in its advertised or quoted rates for those channel packages," the complaint alleges, "in order to mislead customers into thinking that they will pay less than Comcast will actually charge them."

The fees were charged to both new customers, and customers with contracts signed before they were put into effect, in possible violation of promises of flat monthly rates.

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Comcast's advertising, which prominently claims lower flat rates, includes the Broadcast TV and Regional Sports fees in a clause that states, "taxes and fees, including regulatory recovery fees" are subject to change, Consumerist reports. 

When customers attempt to obtain information about the fees, Comcast employees "explicitly lie" about the fees, the suit alleges, claiming that they are "government-related or taxes over which Comcast has no control."

Comcast recently announced a new $2 "Voice Technology Fee," according to DSL Reports. Comcast says that the fee is designed to recover "investments in network and technology associated with providing voice services." Comcast has removed mention of this fee from its website since news of the lawsuit broke. 

Sources: Ars Technica, DSL Reports, Consumerist, US District Court (PDF) / Photo credit: CIO Today

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