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.