By Kyle Daly
Oct. 11 —Comcast Corp. will pay $2.3 million to resolve a Federal Communications Commission investigation into whether the company wrongfully charged customers for services and equipment they never ordered, the agency announced Oct. 11. The settlement is the largest civil penalty the FCC has ever assessed against a cable operator.
Following consumer complaints, the FCC launched a probe into whether Comcast was charging subscribers for items such as premium channels and set-top boxes that they didn’t request. In some cases, consumers alleged they had declined the offerings but were still billed for them, according to the agency. Comcast subscribers also complained about being surprised by getting equipment in the mail they hadn’t ordered and being charged for it, the commission said.
Comcast will be required to implement a five-year compliance plan under which it will adopt new procedures for getting customer consent for new services and equipment; begin sending out order confirmations for any new charges separate from any other bill; and launch a detailed program for dealing with disputed charges, the FCC said.
“It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer—nothing more and nothing less,” Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, 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 disagreed with the FCC's treatment of the charges as the equivalent of cramming, the practice of deliberately adding unauthorized charges to a bill. Spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said in a statement that the two-year investigation found “no problematic policy or intentional wrongdoing, but just isolated errors or customer confusion.” The company agreed to the settlement, she said, to put the matter behind it and focus on improving customer service.
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