Charter Says Its Sneaky, Unnecessary Fees Are A Consumer Benefit

from the this-is-for-your-own-good dept

We've noted for some time how cable providers over the last few years have added a "broadcast TV" fee to customer bills. Such a fee, which simply takes a part of the cost of programming and buries it below the line, lets cable providers advertise one rate, then hit customers with a higher bill. It's false advertising, but you'd be hard pressed to find a regulator anywhere in North America willing to tackle the problem. When Comcast was criticized for the practice two years ago, the company claimed that burying a sneaky new fee below the line was just the cable company's way of being "transparent" with its customers:
"Beginning in 2014, we will itemize a portion of broadcast retransmission costs as a separate line item to be more transparent with our customers about the factors that drive price changes," he said. “In 2014, we will not increase the price of Limited Basic or Digital Preferred video service, and adjustments to other video service prices will be lower than they would have been without the Broadcast TV Fee."
While it's true broadcasters impose often unreasonable rate hikes on cable companies, the cost of programming is just one of several costs of doing business, and hiding these costs when listing your prices is the complete opposite of being transparent with your user base. Since the fee began popping up in 2014, some cable companies have as much as tripled the fee, which can now be as much as $6 to $8 per customer, per month.

Fast forward to this month when Charter (and now Charter-owned Time Warner Cable) was sued for the practice. The plaintiff in question wasn't asking for monetary damages; they simply wanted to highlight how an estimated 20% of Charter's revenues are now thanks to a practice that lets the cable company "deceive its customers by advertising and promising a lower price while actually charging a higher price." Charter has finally responded to the suit and, like Comcast, is actually claiming that it's misleading its customers for their own benefit:
"Our customer friendly approach includes simplified pricing and packaging with no data caps, no modem fee, no early termination fee and no separate USF [Universal Service Fund] fee. We provide simple to understand bills and want our customers to understand what they are paying for, including the skyrocketing cost of broadcast channels."
Right, but the lack of data caps is because the FCC banned them for seven years as a merger condition. And while Charter is one of the only cable ISPs that rolls the cost of renting a modem into the overall cost of service, breaking out the broadcast TV fee is the exact opposite of that. Hiding a part of your costs outside of the advertised price, then bumping that fee 300% in just a few years, remains false advertising and misleading jackassery by any measure. Leave it the cable industry to try and argue that intentionally misleading you into thinking you're not getting a rate hike this year is some kind of favor.
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Filed Under: fees, hidden fees, sneaky fees, transparency
Companies: charter


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 7:55am

    Re: Even Walmart

    I've never understood why Americans accept that practice so easily. It's the only country I've ever been to where if I want to buy a $1 item and I have a $1 bill, I don't have enough to pay for it. Confuses the hell out of me when I visit, that combined with mandatory tipping always gets me spending more than I think I am (which, I suppose, is the point).

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