Comcast Continues To Insist Its Sneaky, Misleading Fees Are Just The Company's Way Of Being 'Transparent'
from the false-advertising-is-good-for-you dept
We’ve noted for years now how broadband and cable providers have created a high art out of bogus, misleading fees. Such fees, ranging in name from Comcast’s “broadcast TV fee” to CenturyLink’s “internet cost recovery fee” — allow these companies to falsely advertise one price, then sock consumers with a much higher rate once the bill comes due. This allows these companies to not only jack up prices while claiming the don’t, but it has the added bonus of making direct price comparisons with competitors almost impossible.
Comcast initially charged $1.50 when its broadcast TV fee first appeared back in 2013, but now charges upwards of $6.50 more per month in many markets — a 333% increase in just three years. With the occasional exception, regulators and lawmakers tend to turn a blind eye to this practice as little more than pricing creativity. Comcast was however sued for the practice last year, plaintiffs claiming that this practice is not only false advertising, but is primarily designed to let the company raise rates on customers it convinced to sign long-term contracts.
For its part, Comcast has spent the last few years insisting that sneaky, misleading fees are just the company’s way of being “transparent” with its users:
“Beginning in 2014, we will itemize a portion of broadcast retransmission costs as a separate line item to be more transparent with our customers about the factors that drive price changes,” he said. ?In 2014, we will not increase the price of Limited Basic or Digital Preferred video service, and adjustments to other video service prices will be lower than they would have been without the Broadcast TV Fee.”
Yes, nothing says “transparency” quite like an advertised price that suddenly jumps due to a completely manufactured, sneaky fee. In Oregon, customers were just informed that Comcast will be hitting users there in October with a $1.50 increase in the broadcast fee, a $2 increase in the company’s regional sports fee (also a focus of the recent lawsuit), and a $1 increase in the cost of modem rental. And again, Comcast is attempting to tell locals this is all part of the company’s quest to be more transparent with its users:
“We continue to make investments in our network and technology to give customers more for their money – like faster Internet service and more WiFi hotspots, more video across viewing screens, better technology like X1 and a better customer experience,” Comcast Oregon spokeswoman Amy Keiter said in a written statement. The sports and broadcast fees, she wrote, “allow us to be more transparent with our customers about the factors driving price changes, and represent only a portion of our costs of carrying broadcast and regional sports networks.”
Apparently, Comcast would have you believe that it’s necessary to tack these fees on to your bills to help emphasize the fact that programmers are demanding higher and higher rates for the same service. But even if broadcaster demands are often ludicrous — that’s simply the cost of doing business — and should be included in the overall cost of service. Comcast also apparently believes its subscribers are stupid enough to not realize Comcast NBC Universal is itself one of the biggest broadcasters in America, and owns most of the regional sports networks it’s charging an additional fee for.
Eventually, a regulator or lawmaker somewhere will realize this is a predatory and misleading practice that harms consumers. Until then, Comcast customers not only get a heaping dose of false advertising, but also get to hear that this misleading pricing is for their own good. Enjoy!