The Federal Communications Commission today fined Comcast $2.3 million over allegations that the cable company charged its customers for services that they never authorized.
The settlement is the largest civil penalty the FCC has ever imposed on a cable operator. It stems from numerous complaints from consumers that Comcast was adding charges to their bills for premium channels, set-top boxes, DVRs, and other add-ons that they never ordered.
In addition to paying a fine, Comcast will also change its procedures for handling add-ons. It will send order confirmations for new services separate from the monthly bill, and it will offer the option to block new services or equipment from being added.
“It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less,” FCC enforcement Chief Travis LeBlanc said in a statement. “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.”
Comcast acknowledged issues with its past billing practices, but noted that the FCC settlement does not accuse it of intentional wrongdoing.
“We acknowledge that, in the past, our customer service should have been better and our bills clearer, and that customers have at times been unnecessarily frustrated or confused,” the company said in a statement to PCMag. “That’s why we had already put in place many improvements to do better for our customers even before the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau started this investigation almost two years ago. 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.
“We do not agree with the Bureau’s legal theory here,” the statement continued, “and in our view, after two years, it is telling that it found no problematic policy or intentional wrongdoing, but just isolated errors or customer confusion.”