By Tali Arbel, AP Technology Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Government regulators are fining Comcast $2.3 million, saying the cable giant has charged customers for stuff they never ordered, like premium channels or extra cable boxes.

The Federal Communications Commission said the Philadelphia company must clearly ask customers before charging them for new services or equipment and make it easier for customers to fight charges they think are wrong.

“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, head of the FCC’s 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.”

Comcast said Tuesday that it’s been working to improve customer service — it has long had a bad reputation for how it treats subscribers — and that the problems uncovered by the FCC stemmed from “isolated errors or customer confusion” rather than Comcast intentionally mischarging its 22 million cable-TV subscribers.

The FCC’s settlement with Comcast, which resolves a two-year investigation, said that some customers complained that they were charged for a service or equipment after they specifically said no to Comcast reps. The agency said there were “many” complaints about “hours-long and repeated phone calls” to try to fix the problem and claims of “unhelpful of abusive behavior” from customer-service representatives, like calls getting disconnected.

A Senate investigation this summer had also criticized Comcast and Time Warner Cable, now owned by Charter Communications, for often failing to refund customers who had been mistakenly charged for cable boxes.

The FCC said Tuesday that it’s largest civil fine for a cable operator, though likely not too great a financial burden for Comcast Corp., which recorded a profit of more than $8 billion last year. The agency has fined other companies larger amounts, such as a $100 million fine last year against AT&T for slowing cellphone customers’ data speeds. The wireless carrier is contesting that fine.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments (8)
  1. Diane Goldman says:

    My apartment complex just recently changed from Direct TV to Comcast. We would get free installation. The other day, I got my first bill from Comcast for $80.+ I said what in the world are they charging me for? I got a DVR for $10. a month. I take a look and they were charging me their regular installation fee, with a $20. courtesy discount! I immediately called and said I was to have free installation. She did locate that in the records, but then said they ask people to pay for it and then get a credit. I said NO WAY! She worked it out and I will only pay about $10. for the DVR a month. Did they actually think I was just going to pay the bill, no questions asked????

  2. Chris Christie's Belt says:

    They sent my dad a “totally free, no charge to you” modem and asked him to send the old one back to “recycle” then they started billing him 10 bucks a month for that “free” modem.

  3. mikey says:

    Why isn’t the $2.3 million fine being distributed to Comcast customers? I could use a check for three cents.

  4. Sam says:

    I dropped Comcast like a rock as soon as FiOS was installed in my neighborhood. They don’t keep promises on their prices and then later state that it was special pricing for just 6 months. I got tires of spending hours on the phone with them for billing issues and technical issues.

    1. Al Bundy says:

      FIOS is the same or even worse depending on offices you deal with.

      1. Sam says:

        Apparently I have a good local FiOS office. I haven’t had any billing issues with them or unkept promises. Their technical support is terrible, because when I ask them a simple question about my DVR they can’t help me (and I am a software engineer, so I have the technical chops to figure most stuff out on my own). Nothing was broken, I just couldn’t figure out something in the DVR user interface.

        Comcast couldn’t get anything right. Except for FiOS telephone support that wasn’t helpful it’s been smooth sailing for just over 3 years now since they installed FiOS. We have underground utilities, so the installation was a bit more complicated. Not to mention that they had to dig up my street/sidewalk. But they did a great job with that!

  5. mstarvin says:

    So they over-charge their customers, us, and the government gets the money…sounds like a scam.

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