Broadband

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
broadband, fees, installation

Companies:
comcast



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.


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:08am

    "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might": not "will".

    Omitted in this hit piece is possibility as local practice that I bet is common: "installation fee" is usually waived where already installed for actual new sign-up. Since the word "might" is used, this isn't strictly false and so defamation.

    > "only come into play when a customer signs up for either standalone internet or TV service, rather than buying a bundle" -- Exactly. It's an annoying but entirely legal "trick", and so standard that only Techdirt thinks it worth re-writing into a "story".

    Minion even mentions the never-ending series of hit pieces as if enhance credibility. *Can you NOT find ONE other topic?*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 17 May 2018 @ 11:10am

    Shrug.

    It's just a consolidated flat fee supposed to cover cost on average. If they charged for actual effort, you'd not know in advance what you were going to pay.

    Depending on the serviced area, it might be on the high side, no idea. In the interest of keeping the running costs down, having a separate installation fee instead of a minimum contract term or the cost folded into fixed monthly fees seems like the lesser evil.

    I don't find that awful as long as they are reasonably upfront about it. Certainly a lot better than a lot of recurring and/or bogus fees.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:23am

      Re: Shrug.

      Another satisfied comcast customer - lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 17 May 2018 @ 1:34pm

        Re: Re: Shrug.

        Actually, not at all. Living in Europe. The deal here es about $40 monthly fee for Internet and two land lines with flat rate (for in-country phone connections to land lines). We signed up for "up to 2Mbps" which turned out to be about 1Mbps (since we are living outside of the small town, neighbors spread about a quarter mile apart), changed providers to "up to 6Mbps" which turned out to be about 2Mbps. With VDSL it went up to about 3Mbps. Then they put out fiber to the next connection box (about three neighbors away) keeping the copper for the rest. We have about 35Mbps currently. Nobody bothered to threaten any throttling if we weren't switching to a faster plan.

        With regard to changing providers: there usually is a "connection fee" of about $60 which gets waived if you take a somewhat discounted 24 month contract that can only be cancelled yearly in advance. If you don't, you pay fully from the start including connection fee but can cancel every month right from the start.

        Conditions are different for different providers though. They all use the same infrastructure, basically renting from the former state-owned monopolist (which has to have its rates signed off by the government) and I've heard of shenanigans like cables getting ripped out when changing providers: the connection fee may well correspond to the actual efforts of getting stuff to work again. It's rare to hear of a change going smoothly without interruption.

        At any rate, you pay what is advertised mostly: they tend to advertise the discounted rate for 2-year contracts with the raise afterwards being mentioned in the small print. Annoying enough, but all the advertisements do contain all the costs upfront if you bother reading the small print.

        So yes, we do have competitive offers here (because of the rent model from the former state monopoly, if you get service at all, you can usually pick between a number of providers), the costs are given upfront, and they usually include connection fees unless you take out a 2-year minimum contract.

        Within the contract term duration, you can usually upgrade your contract any time you want to a higher-priced model, but if they allow you to downgrade it at all, there will be an associated cost.

        When they offer you service, they cannot add any additional charges over the advertisement.

        Yes, I find that reasonable, and it's nowhere the opaque clusterfuck that Comcast does to its customers, with "network fees" and "program fees" and what other recurring nonsense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      I.T. Guy, 17 May 2018 @ 11:59am

      Re: Shrug.

      Likes Comcast pricing... Doesn't mind paying for new Canooter valves for his car either.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 May 2018 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Shrug.

      If you think that Comcast would do something like this to keep costs the customer pays down, I've got great news, apparently there are hundreds of nigerian princes who have important information for you, so make sure to keep your eyes open for that.

      'Everyone gets charged whether they need to be or not in order to keep costs down in general' is just another way to rip people off, it's not a 'cost saving measure'. If you need it, you pay. If you don't need it, you pay.

      If Person A needs to pay the fee because they actually are a new customer and comcast needs to send someone out, then great, give them a quote upfront so they know how much that would add to their first bill. The 'they wouldn't know' is rubbish, the company has been around more than long enough to be able to provide a general range.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:11am

    "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

    Omitted in this hit piece is possibility as local practice that I bet is common: "installation fee" is usually waived where already installed for actual new sign-up. Since the word "might" is used, this isn't strictly false and so defamation.

    "only come into play when a customer signs up for either standalone internet or TV service, rather than buying a bundle" -- Exactly. It's an annoying but entirely legal "trick", and so standard that only Techdirt thinks it worth re-writing into a "story".


    Note: attempt from "Lite" version did nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:14am

      Re: "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

      (Markdown fail above: remember to make new line.)

      Minion even mentions the never-ending series of hit pieces as if enhance credibility. Can you NOT find ONE other topic?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:15am

      Re: "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

      A waivable fee is one thing but when you are literally the largest ISP in the country with a literal backbone duplication for the government designed into your network, you charge any fees you want. Want to charge the locals $10 more per Gigabyte? Go for it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:27am

      Re: "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

      Oh, the fee can be waived huh.
      That is not a very good excuse, rationalization nor explanation.

      Let me guess for whom the fee is waived and for whom it is not. Looks to be just more of the same bullshit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      deadspatula (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 11:44am

      Re: "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

      Actually, the fee is charged, and it might be credited back to you. When you sign up, you have to outlay the costs before they sign you up. A refund after the fact is not the same as not being charged.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:49am

      Re: "installation fee might be charged" -- KEY word there is "might"

      Add "defamation" to the list of words you don't understand.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 5:59pm

        Re: Re:

        Let him grieve. He's angry and bitter that Shiva Ayyadurai's "defamation" charges didn't stick and he has to grapple with the fact that the site which outlived SOPA still exists.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Richard Bennett, 17 May 2018 @ 11:46pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I think it's funny as fuck you have to shame anti-piracy efforts just to keep up your servitude to Google, Bode. But it won't last. Pai has the resources and time to wait out your pirate buddies. SESTA was approved, and the clock is ticking.

          The next drink I take will be to celebrate the demise of this shameless Google front you call a website.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2018 @ 6:54am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Wait.... Are you saying that Google fronts can't be websites? If they can then why didn't you just say "The next drink I take will be to celebrate the demise of this shameless Google front."?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2018 @ 8:17am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Keep trying, Dick. Your tears are delicious.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 May 2018 @ 9:46pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I think its downright hilarious that you post anonymously just so you can sling some swear words around without having any kind of facts to back up your arguments. Not to mention that you still insert your name so everyone knows it's you.

            SESTA was approved, and the clock is ticking.

            Ah so you admit that there was no point to SESTA other than trying control and censor the internet. Glad to know where you stand.

            Try again Richard.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:12am

    State actors don't need reasons

    They can just charge you bullshit fees and you have no choice. Eventually, this path will lead to criminal charges for not having it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 May 2018 @ 11:16am

    Speed doesn't really matter with DOCSIS

    Comcast is a cable ISP. Unlike DSL, even if you were increasing your speed, there would rarely be any local work to do. Comcast simply tells the modem what speed to run at. They can pull the signal stats over SNMP too, so they'll have a good idea what speed any given address is capable of.

    Hypothetically, if the lines in your house were awful or you had some ancient splitter, a tech might need to run some modern high-frequency coax. But that's related to what frequencies are in use (the modem's DOCSIS version, basically), not what speed you sign up for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Michael Gantz (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 12:37pm

      Re: Speed doesn't really matter with DOCSIS

      This! Exactly this. A lot of installs could be self installs with little to no problems. If there is a problem they can most likely diagnose from the NOC. If a real problem exists then an install fee could be charged, assuming the problem exists on the customer premises and not somewhere else.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 6:45am

      Re: Speed doesn't really matter with DOCSIS

      You mean to say Comcast is abusing its dominant, near monopolistic hold on most of the US by charging fees that shouldn't be there for services it won't provide? I'm shocked, positively shocked.

      (Do I need to add sarcasm marks? I'm feeling I wasn't acidic enough)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 3:29pm

    The comments in the original article has many anecdotes of Comcast customers being charged that fraudulent fee, even while Comcast performed no installation work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 (profile), 17 May 2018 @ 10:02pm

    Rentals

    This can be a serious gravy-train for Comcast when changing out to new tenants! Where NOTHING changes except the name of who is paying the bill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeremy Lyman (profile), 18 May 2018 @ 4:45am

    Fees For Everything.

    The most Egregious fee I paid when I was a Comcast Customer was a $50 charge to come and disconnect my service when I quit. Not for breaking a contract, missing equipment, or anything else. The fee for a tech disconnecting my cable was a half month's bill. I could not believe they had the audacity to charge me in order to stop charging me but I was so sick and tired of them I said "fine schedule the appointment".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2018 @ 8:32am

      Re: Fees For Everything.

      $50 charge to come and disconnect my service when I quit.

      Did they do it? I once had a guy show up and say he was going to disconnect my cable... but I'd never subscribed. Apparently they'd just forgotten to disable it when the previous resident had left, a decade earlier, and I'd never noticed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 May 2018 @ 9:08pm

    They should have made it €89.99

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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