But I Didn’t Order That!

Originally Published October 8, 2013

A Couple of years ago, Comcast told its subscribers that it was converting most of its channels from analog to digital. The transition, according to Comcast, would result in all sorts of great benefits to subscribers. But, there was a catch. You now had to have a converter box on all of your TVs.

No problem said Comcast, “we we will provide our residential customers at the Standard level of service and higher with one digital set-top converter and up to two digital adapters – all with remotes – at no change in the current monthly service cost.” All subscribers had to do was call and request the boxes. Subscribers did just that.

For about 2 years, everything went as promised. Then Comcast changed course. It started to charge subscribers $1.99 per subscriber per box for these converter boxes. Subscribers cried out, “wait a second, you said I wouldn’t be charged!” It was pointed out by some rate authorities that the $1.99 charge was $1.49 higher than the maximum permitted rate on Comcast’s Rate form.

Comcast changed course again, indicating that the $1.99 fee was a service fee rather than an equipment fee. Then Comcast said that of the $1.99 fee, $.50 was for equipment and $1.49 was for service. Not only were subscribers now being charged for equipment that they were previously told would be provided at no cost due to Comcast’s decision to convert its cable signals, but they were now being charged for a service that they never ordered at all. When subscribers realize they are now being charged for this new never-been-described service, the collective subscriber response has been, “but I didn’t order that!”

Years ago, Congress passed a law that was designed to protect cable subscribers from being duped into buying new equipment and services without actually asking for it. A practice called negative option billing. The FCC has a similar rule.

Were subscribers duped by Comcast? We think so. This story from King 5 News in Seattle shows that subscribers think so too.

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