It's 2021 And Bullshit Broadband And Cable TV Fees Are Somehow Still A Thing
from the you'd-think-we-would-have-fixed-this-by-now dept
For years we’ve talked about how the broadband and cable industry has perfected the use of utterly bogus fees to jack up subscriber bills — a dash of financial creativity it adopted from the banking and airline industries. Countless cable and broadband companies tack on a myriad of completely bogus fees below the line, letting them advertise one rate — then sock you with a higher rate once your bill actually arrives. These companies will then brag repeatedly about how they haven’t raised rates yet this year, when that’s almost never actually the case.
One 2019 Consumer Reports study found that about 24% of consumer bills are comprised of bullshit fees, generating cable giants $28 billion in additional revenue annually. The problem is just as bad over in broadband (see Centurylink’s utterly nonsensical “Internet Cost Recovery” fee). Often cable and broadband companies will try to give such fees official-sounding names like “regulatory recovery” so that consumers falsely blame government for being nickel-and-dimed. But between TV fees, hardware fees, usage fees, and other surcharges, bundled customers dole out a small fortune every year for absolutely nothing.
It’s fraud, but fraud that has somehow been normalized over decades.
I’ve been writing about this problem for the better part of twenty years, so it’s disheartening to see the Washington Post still covering this bullshit in 2021 without much having changed:
“Most of the price hike that I didn?t expect was Comcast sneaking in additional ?fees? ? not taxes, just expenses related to Comcast?s cost of doing business. I?m paying $27.05 on top of my bundle price for Comcast?s cable service to carry local broadcast networks and pro sports games. Yes, my Comcast bill, [Consumer Reports senior counsel Jonathan] Schwantes said, isn?t as bad as many others he has seen, which can include 12 or more line-item fees. Some companies, he added, try to make people think their fees are government taxes, but they?re not.
Amusingly, Comcast tries to pass off falsely advertising low prices then socking users with bullshit fees as some kind of consumer benefit:
“Comcast tells me this is exactly what its customers want. It said it disclosed its copious additional fees to me in various fine-print communications ? though only after I entered my credit card number. ?We conduct extensive consumer research and host focus groups and incorporate our findings into the way we present information to our customers, all in an effort to help ensure they have a positive experience and can easily understand the details of their service,? said Jennifer Khoury, Comcast?s chief communications officer.”
By and large, federal regulators couldn’t give any less of a shit about this problem. That leaves a patchwork collection of State AGs who’ll occasionally dole out some light fines and flimsy wrist slaps. But that leaves most consumers utterly unprotected from being ripped off by their local cable TV or telecom company. As you can tell from similar behavior in the banking and airline industries, the federal government, at some point, just declared it perfectly okay to rip people off with utterly nonsensical fees, provided you’re just marginally clever about it.