Broadband

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
broadband, cable, fees, lawsuits, tv

Companies:
time warner cable



Time Warner Cable Sued Again Over Sneaky Hidden Fees...By Plaintiff Not Seeking Monetary Damages

from the new-low-rates dept

For some time now broadband providers have taken a page out of the banking playbook and hitting consumers with sneaky, below-the-line fees for TV and broadband service. Whether it's the use of "regulatory recovery fee" (a bogus fee designed to sound like it's government-mandated to misdirect blame) or an entirely pointless and nonsensical fee like CenturyLink's "Internet Cost Recovery Fee," these surcharges exist for one purpose: they let the ISP advertise one price, then charge something dramatically different.

You'd be hard pressed to find any regulator willing to crack down on this practice, leaving a rotating crop of lawsuits as the closest ISPs get to seeing actual punishment for such behavior. A few years ago Time Warner Cable was sued for false advertising and deceptive business practices after promotional rates wound up being significantly larger once the customer bill came due. While that suit still stumbles forward, Time Warner Cable (and new owner Charter) have just been hit with another, similar suit, this time more specifically focused on the company's use of "broadcast TV fees" and regional sports network fees.

The plaintiff in this case isn't seeking any monetary damages; the complaint itself going to great lengths (pdf) to point out how these kinds of deceptive charges now account for more than 20% of Charter's revenues. The case spends a lot of time focusing on the now-industry-standard "broadcast TV fee," which tries to take the cost of programming and bury a portion of it below the line:
"In March 2014, TWC began utilizing a shady backdoor way to increase prices to its prospective and current television service subscribers, while continuing to advertise and promise the same flat lower monthly rates for its service plans. Rather than implementing a top-line price increase for its advertised television service or bundled service plans - which would have been noticed by its prospective and current customers - TWC instead kept the advertised price the same and hid the price increase in a newly invented and inadequately disclosed “Broadcast TV Fee.”
You might recall that Comcast, when also sued for this exact same fee, tried to claim that taking the cost of business and hiding it below the line was just its attempt at being "transparent" with the company's customers. And of course once this fee is implemented it quickly soars — in Time Warner Cable's case having tripled in just three years to an additional $6.05 per month. These fees not only let companies falsely advertise a lower price, it also allows them to falsely crow about how they haven't raised rates in "X" years, even if they're technically raising rates pretty much constantly.

And while the FCC had been pondering a "nutrition label" for broadband & TV services that would have required ISPs be more clear about pricing, that program was voluntary and, like so many recent FCC initiatives, isn't particularly likely to see much attention under a Trump Presidency.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2016 @ 7:41am

    I have long maintained that things here won't change until someone screws up peoples' TV.

    There is hope, after all.

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