Comcast must pay a $2.3 million after the Federal Communications Commission discovered the company has been charging customers for services and equipment they did not order.
The infamous Comcast engaged in the practice of “negative option billing,” which is prohibited by federal law.
According to the law, “a subscriber’s failure to refuse a cable operator’s proposal to provide such service or equipment shall not be deemed to be an affirmative request for such service or equipment.” Which means Comcast cannot assume that not saying “no” automatically means “yes.”
In some cases users were charged more than $300 for things they never ordered. Then Comcast put customers through the wringer: customer service directed complaints to the billing department, which kept people on hold or said they’d call back and never did.
In addition to the multi-million dollar fine, Comcast must participate in a five-year compliance plan. This plan includes ensuring procedures are in place to obtain customers’ affirmative consent before charging and sending specific order confirmation clearly outlining charges, as well as improving how they deal with disputed charges and maing it easier for customers to block the addition of new services.
“It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less,” said Travis LeBlanc, Chief of the Enforcement Bureau. “We expect all cable and phone companies to take responsibility for the accuracy of their bills and to ensure their customers have authorized any charges.”
In typical Comcast fashion, the company said the FCC’s investigation merely uncovered “isolated errors or customer confusion.”
“The changes the Bureau asked us to make were in most cases changes we had already committed to make, and many were already well underway or in our work plan to implement in the near future,” the notorious service provider added.