Comcast Must Pay $2.3 Million Fine for “Negative Option Billing”

It’s like the Wells Fargo thing, but with cable.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart, CC BY 2.0.

If you were hanging out on your favorite social media or news sites last night, you might have seen big news from the Federal Communications Commission:

The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau today announced that Comcast Corporation will pay a $2.3 million fine to resolve an investigation into whether the company wrongfully charged cable TV customers for services and equipment that those customers never authorized. The Communications Act and the FCC’s rules prohibit a cable provider from charging its subscribers for services or equipment they did not affirmatively request, a practice known as “negative option billing.” Negative option billing burdens customers with the responsibility of contacting a cable company to dispute the charges and obtain refunds.

This is the largest fine the FCC has ever issued to a cable company—and it’s coming just about a month after Wells Fargo received the largest fine the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has ever issued, for signing customers up for accounts they did not “affirmatively request.”

Comcast, meanwhile, disputes the charges.

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.
We do not agree with the Bureau’s legal theory here, 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.

Have any of you found “isolated errors” on your Comcast bills? Have you been “unnecessarily frustrated or confused” by the summary of your charges? Did you ever get a cable channel upgrade that you can’t remember requesting?