Comcast has been fined $2.3 million over so-called ‘negative option billing’ — that is, unauthorized billing for services or goods that weren’t request and that require the consumer to contact the company in dispute and to seek refunds. According to the FCC, it had received many complaints from Comcast customers who claimed the service provider was bill “cramming,” or adding charges to bills for things they didn’t request, including DVRs and premium channels. In some cases, subscribers say they declined items, only to be mailed them and billed for them.
The FCC goes on to say that consumers complained of having to spend ‘significant time and energy’ to get the items removed from their bills and/or to get refunds. It was based on these various complaints that the commission initiated a probe into the matter.
That has led to this settlement, which the FCC says is the biggest civil penalty it has dolled out to a cable operator. The settlement involves a five-year compliance plan, will require Comcast to make changes to ensure customers actually want something before they’re billed for it, and will involve Comcast giving out separate and specific confirmation messages — separate from bills — that describe the products added.
Even better, though, will be the ability for Comcast customers to block the addition of new products and services to their accounts, ensuring nothing is added. As well, Comcast is required to provide a new and better program that will deal with disputes and get matters settled faster than before. This redress system will also need to deal with limited “adverse actions” against affected customers, including things like sending the account into collections.
SOURCE: FCC [PDF]