Comcast Found To Be Charging $90 Installation Fees At Homes Where Comcast Is Already In Use

from the fees-guys dept

Any review of our ongoing coverage of Comcast will leave you with the impression that the mega-company is almost perfectly terrible at customer service, seems only interested in growing as large as possible as quickly as possible while tamping down anything resembling the potential for competition in its market, and has done everything in its power to kill net neutrality on top of it all. While many might believe that Comcast is getting killed by the same cord-cutting epoch causing so many others in the entertainment space to reach for the Tums, we recently noted that the cable company is actually still raking in money hand over fist. This is done, at least in part, by the company’s subtle strategy of simply upping what they charge customers for internet services.

It’s also apparently done in part by charging Comcast customers with installation fees for locations already tuned up on Comcast service.

Based on our tests, signing up for standalone Internet or TV service on Comcast.com often requires payment of a $59.99 or $89.99 installation fee, depending on where you live. (The fee was $60 in two Massachusetts suburbs and $90 at homes in Houston, Texas, and Seattle, Washington.) In cases where the $60 or $90 fee is charged, the fee is required whether you purchase your own modem or rent one from Comcast for another $11 a month.

The installation fee might be charged even if the home you’re buying service at has existing Comcast service, and even if you order Internet speeds lower than those purchased by the current occupant. That means the fee is charged even when Comcast doesn’t have to make any upgrades at the house or apartment you’re moving into. Internet speed makes no difference, as the fee may be charged whether you purchase 15Mbps downloads or gigabit service.

Comcast is rather well-known for making these types of fees a key part of its revenue model. What perhaps isn’t as widely known, including by some Comcast customer service agents, is that the website appears to be designed to keep people from being able to rightly avoid those fees when they bring their own equipment to the table, or when the residence already has Comcast service. It’s also notable that these fees typically only come into play when a customer signs up for either standalone internet or TV service, rather than buying a bundle. It seems that this is a way to extract money from cord-cutters specifically.

Ars Technica brought the fees to the attention of Comcast customer service, a rep told them that any questions about install fees customers would incur by signing up for Comcast service at a residence that already has service are moot, because customers cannot sign up for service at an occupied residence to which they will be moving later. To sign up for service in that case, the customer would have to call into Comcast and have an agent contact the current occupant to ensure they were indeed moving out of the home before the order could be taken. That, not surprisingly, appears to be incorrect.

I was able to schedule installation appointments and enter credit card numbers in order to sign up for service at homes where the current resident subscribes to Comcast. Hitting the “Submit Order” button would have charged my card $50 immediately, enough to cover the first monthly payment of $30 and part of the installation fee.

I didn’t actually click the “Submit Order” button because I wanted to avoid credit card charges and a confusing situation with Comcast installers. But once I pointed this out to the Comcast spokesperson, the company stopped denying that it would be impossible to sign up for service at these homes without talking to a Comcast agent.

In the ensuing days, Comcast’s automated system sent me two followup emails urging me to complete my order before I unsubscribed from the messages—I was never told that I had to talk to a Comcast agent in order to set up service.

As for the work done for these “installation” fees, they can often consist of simply watching the customer set their own devices up themselves and then running a speedtest to ensure it’s working properly. One Ars employee went through this personally, setting up his own modem, having the Comcast tech run a speedtest, and then being charged the installation fee, which was claimed to be “mandatory.” And this sort of thing wasn’t some one-off mistake.

“I just went direct to Comcast’s website for ordering and I noticed they do not have a self install option anymore,” a Comcast customer wrote on a DSLReports forum.

Comcast was charging $59.99 “for coming and plugging in MY modem,” the customer wrote.

The excuses Comcast has for these fees are legion. They range from claims that the super-high speeds Comcast provides warrants an install fee, to claims that Comcast always disconnects lines when a customer cancels service (which isn’t remotely true), to claims that the techs work to verify the fidelity of the lines and connections warrants the high fees. Frankly, it would be nice if Comcast could settle on a single line of bullshit, for simplicity’s sake.

And, yet, this is a company seeking to grow and grow and grow, all while successfully lobbying the government to keep competitors out of its way. It’s the result of regulatory capture, in other words, and should be an affront to anyone that believes in a healthy and freely competitive marketplace, or anyone that believes in consumer rights.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: comcast

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Comcast Found To Be Charging $90 Installation Fees At Homes Where Comcast Is Already In Use”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
30 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

"installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might": not "will".

Omitted in this hit piece is possibility as local practice that I bet is common: “installation fee” is usually waived where already installed for actual new sign-up. Since the word “might” is used, this isn’t strictly false and so defamation.

> “only come into play when a customer signs up for either standalone internet or TV service, rather than buying a bundle” — Exactly. It’s an annoying but entirely legal “trick”, and so standard that only Techdirt thinks it worth re-writing into a “story”.

Minion even mentions the never-ending series of hit pieces as if enhance credibility. *Can you NOT find ONE other topic?*

David says:

Shrug.

It’s just a consolidated flat fee supposed to cover cost on average. If they charged for actual effort, you’d not know in advance what you were going to pay.

Depending on the serviced area, it might be on the high side, no idea. In the interest of keeping the running costs down, having a separate installation fee instead of a minimum contract term or the cost folded into fixed monthly fees seems like the lesser evil.

I don’t find that awful as long as they are reasonably upfront about it. Certainly a lot better than a lot of recurring and/or bogus fees.

David says:

Re: Re: Shrug.

Actually, not at all. Living in Europe. The deal here es about $40 monthly fee for Internet and two land lines with flat rate (for in-country phone connections to land lines). We signed up for "up to 2Mbps" which turned out to be about 1Mbps (since we are living outside of the small town, neighbors spread about a quarter mile apart), changed providers to "up to 6Mbps" which turned out to be about 2Mbps. With VDSL it went up to about 3Mbps. Then they put out fiber to the next connection box (about three neighbors away) keeping the copper for the rest. We have about 35Mbps currently. Nobody bothered to threaten any throttling if we weren’t switching to a faster plan.

With regard to changing providers: there usually is a "connection fee" of about $60 which gets waived if you take a somewhat discounted 24 month contract that can only be cancelled yearly in advance. If you don’t, you pay fully from the start including connection fee but can cancel every month right from the start.

Conditions are different for different providers though. They all use the same infrastructure, basically renting from the former state-owned monopolist (which has to have its rates signed off by the government) and I’ve heard of shenanigans like cables getting ripped out when changing providers: the connection fee may well correspond to the actual efforts of getting stuff to work again. It’s rare to hear of a change going smoothly without interruption.

At any rate, you pay what is advertised mostly: they tend to advertise the discounted rate for 2-year contracts with the raise afterwards being mentioned in the small print. Annoying enough, but all the advertisements do contain all the costs upfront if you bother reading the small print.

So yes, we do have competitive offers here (because of the rent model from the former state monopoly, if you get service at all, you can usually pick between a number of providers), the costs are given upfront, and they usually include connection fees unless you take out a 2-year minimum contract.

Within the contract term duration, you can usually upgrade your contract any time you want to a higher-priced model, but if they allow you to downgrade it at all, there will be an associated cost.

When they offer you service, they cannot add any additional charges over the advertisement.

Yes, I find that reasonable, and it’s nowhere the opaque clusterfuck that Comcast does to its customers, with "network fees" and "program fees" and what other recurring nonsense.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Shrug.

If you think that Comcast would do something like this to keep costs the customer pays down, I’ve got great news, apparently there are hundreds of nigerian princes who have important information for you, so make sure to keep your eyes open for that.

‘Everyone gets charged whether they need to be or not in order to keep costs down in general’ is just another way to rip people off, it’s not a ‘cost saving measure’. If you need it, you pay. If you don’t need it, you pay.

If Person A needs to pay the fee because they actually are a new customer and comcast needs to send someone out, then great, give them a quote upfront so they know how much that would add to their first bill. The ‘they wouldn’t know’ is rubbish, the company has been around more than long enough to be able to provide a general range.

Anonymous Coward says:

"installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

Omitted in this hit piece is possibility as local practice that I bet is common: "installation fee" is usually waived where already installed for actual new sign-up. Since the word "might" is used, this isn’t strictly false and so defamation.

"only come into play when a customer signs up for either standalone internet or TV service, rather than buying a bundle" — Exactly. It’s an annoying but entirely legal "trick", and so standard that only Techdirt thinks it worth re-writing into a "story".


Note: attempt from "Lite" version did nothing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

A waivable fee is one thing but when you are literally the largest ISP in the country with a literal backbone duplication for the government designed into your network, you charge any fees you want. Want to charge the locals $10 more per Gigabyte? Go for it.

Richard Bennett says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I think it’s funny as fuck you have to shame anti-piracy efforts just to keep up your servitude to Google, Bode. But it won’t last. Pai has the resources and time to wait out your pirate buddies. SESTA was approved, and the clock is ticking.

The next drink I take will be to celebrate the demise of this shameless Google front you call a website.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I think its downright hilarious that you post anonymously just so you can sling some swear words around without having any kind of facts to back up your arguments. Not to mention that you still insert your name so everyone knows it’s you.

SESTA was approved, and the clock is ticking.

Ah so you admit that there was no point to SESTA other than trying control and censor the internet. Glad to know where you stand.

Try again Richard.

Anonymous Coward says:

Speed doesn't really matter with DOCSIS

Comcast is a cable ISP. Unlike DSL, even if you were increasing your speed, there would rarely be any local work to do. Comcast simply tells the modem what speed to run at. They can pull the signal stats over SNMP too, so they’ll have a good idea what speed any given address is capable of.

Hypothetically, if the lines in your house were awful or you had some ancient splitter, a tech might need to run some modern high-frequency coax. But that’s related to what frequencies are in use (the modem’s DOCSIS version, basically), not what speed you sign up for.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

Fees For Everything.

The most Egregious fee I paid when I was a Comcast Customer was a $50 charge to come and disconnect my service when I quit. Not for breaking a contract, missing equipment, or anything else. The fee for a tech disconnecting my cable was a half month’s bill. I could not believe they had the audacity to charge me in order to stop charging me but I was so sick and tired of them I said “fine schedule the appointment”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fees For Everything.

$50 charge to come and disconnect my service when I quit.

Did they do it? I once had a guy show up and say he was going to disconnect my cable… but I’d never subscribed. Apparently they’d just forgotten to disable it when the previous resident had left, a decade earlier, and I’d never noticed.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...