By Adam R Jacobson
RBR + TVBR
The FCC on Tuesday (Oct. 11) handed Comcast Corp. a record-setting $2.3 million fine to settle a series of customer complaints that they were charged for services or equipment they never authorized.
At issue is the widespread use of so-called “negative option billing,” it is equivalent to the illegal practice known as “cramming” (the unauthorized placement of charges on telephone bills). In place for over 20 years, the negative option billing prohibition has been interpreted and enforced as a customer service rule. As stated in the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992, the FCC as well as state and local governments have jurisdiction to regulate cable operators’ negative option billing practices.
The Commission received numerous complaints from consumers alleging that Comcast imposed charges for equipment and services that customers did not order. Although the specific details vary, many complaints allege that Comcast added services or equipment to subscribers’ cable service without their knowledge or permission.
The FCC shared several of the customer complaints it received, and it paints a picture of a hapless customer service department that did exactly what Comcast subscribers didn’t ask for.