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Cox Cable Customers Bond Together To Fight Bullshit Fees

from the backfired dept

We’ve long covered how cable and broadband companies use a rotating array of bullshit fees to covertly jack up advertised rates, hitting you with a much higher bill after you’ve subscribed. We’ve also noted how new streamlined technologies have been turning the binding arbitration process on its head, making it easier and more affordable for consumers to bury companies with arbitration complaints.

Now those two concepts have unsurprisingly fused. Customers of cable giant Cox Communications are flooding Cox with arbitration complaints over two major fees the company routinely charges users: its “Broadcast Surcharge” and “Regional Sports Surcharge”:

The Hattis & Lukacs law firm last night “filed 295 individual consumer arbitrations against Cox with the American Arbitration Association,” representing clients in 17 of the 19 states Cox operates in, attorney Daniel Hattis told Ars. Hattis said he aims to file thousands more arbitration cases against Cox, which has an estimated 3.4 million TV customers.

Both fees, as we’ve noted previously, are bullshit. The Regional Sports surcharge is simply some of the money your cable company pays to air local sports broadcasts (despite, in many instances, being the local sports broadcaster) even if you don’t watch sports. The “broadcast surcharge,” used by many cable companies, is also just a portion of the money they pay for content buried below the line (more here).

In both instances, these are just the costs of doing business, and should be included above the line as part of your general bill. Cable companies bury them below the line to (again) falsely advertise a lower rate. But it also allows them to covertly raise prices while falsely claiming that their base prices have remained the same.

When the Supreme Court in 2011 ruled in favor of AT&T, it opened the flood gates to companies effectively banning your legal rights using contract fine print. So instead of suing companies or participating in class actions, you were forced to participate in binding arbitration, a lopsided process that’s costly for the end user, and frequently tilts in favor of corporations (the entire reason they love it).

But in more recent years, technological innovation has made it easier and more cost efficient for angry consumers (and lawyers) to file binding arbitration complaints en masse, completely deflating the reason corporations wanted this model to begin with. It’s gotten so bad, some companies (like Amazon) have found it once again makes better sense to bring such complaints back to the courtroom.

While the class action process has no shortage of problems (like consumers seeing very little in compensation while their lawyers buy a new boat), binding arbitration was shopped around by U.S. corporations as a significant improvement over that process. Instead it was a lopsided dumpster fire that made things even worse for consumers much of the time.

That eroding consumer legal rights in fine print is now backfiring spectacular is immensely entertaining. In Cox’s case, it now has to pay $3,300 per arbitration, or nearly $975,000 for the 295 arbitration complaints filed so far. Like most cable companies (Comcast, Charter also utilize the same fees), Cox obviously isn’t happy it may face something vaguely resembling accountability for false advertising.

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Companies: cox communications

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Comments on “Cox Cable Customers Bond Together To Fight Bullshit Fees”

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Anonymous Coward says:

There really needs to be legislation that requires all advertised pricing to include the total price inclusive of all required fees and all optional fees should be clearly stated as well with a very easy way to “opt out”. Whether it’s a cable company, restaurant, or a car dealer the advertised price should be the price the consumer pays. Anything else should be considered deceptive advertising.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:


There really needs to be legislation that requires all advertised pricing to include the total price inclusive of all required fees and all optional fees should be clearly stated as well with a very easy way to “opt out”.

I disagree. You should have to “opt in” instead of “opt out”.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Hotels now do this also

I’m finding that hotels are playing this game also.
I recently stayed in a Marriott hotel, which I chose for its decent price. But then when I checked in, I was told there would be a $30 self-parking charge and a $40 “resort fee”.
This effectively raises the room rate $70 more per night! And like airlines and other companies, these fees were probably mentioned in tiny print in the terms of service on the website, which no one reads, but which the company can claim they informed customers.

As a side note, the hotel “resort fee” is as much BS as the “local sports coverage” since the items listed in the resort fee should be part of doing business, such as pool maintenance, towels for the pool, and wi-fi.

mucoepd (profile) says:

My only available provider Armstrong Cable really stacked the deck against their consumers to prevent Cox’s current situation. (I posted this on another site originally.)

No opt-out. Arbitration must be done in Pittsburgh (about a 4 1/2 hour drive for me, one-way) or another place of Armstrong’s choosing. You must split the cost of the arbitrator with Armstrong (you may get your half back if you win). No pre-discovery of documents or depositions. You can’t recover attorney fees, even if you are successful. No punitive damages. No consolidated or class action arbitration either.


Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Interesting but missing the problem

We could bytch all our lives about billing practices. That ignores the underlying problem that creates shite practices.

Mandatory carry. If the government didn’t prop up broadcast tv then access would be line item charged. And consumers could say no to it.

It past time to let broadcast sink or swim on its own. I can’t recall the last thing I watched on broadcast. But I know for a fact it was through a conglomerate app. Not via cable/antenna.

Debra Murphy says:

I want to sue Cox

I live in Rhode Island. Even with contracts, Cox keeps increasing the fees. I said I will.have to cancel, and they told me there’s an early cancelation fee. Why? They broke the contract. Not the first time. Last January they sent a bill in big red letters that I had to pay over $400 in arrearage because I should have been paying a higher price. Finally over the summer I thought I straightened it out. They agreed for the next year I would pay no more than $182 a month. Today I got a bill for $237. I called and was told the other fee was only good for one year. I said it hasn’t been a year.
What assholes.

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