All of these fees far exceeded the maximum rate that Comcast was allowed to charge for the equipment.
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Woodbury, MN (PRWEB) March 26, 2014
The actions of these four cable commissions will have a nation-wide impact and will require Comcast to be more transparent in their billing practices. In early 2013, Comcast began charging subscribers a $1.99 DTA fee. A DTA is a digital adapter box that allows customers to convert digital cable signals to work on an analog television. “Subscribers across the country complained about this fee,” said attorney Mike Bradley of the cable and telecommunications law firm Bradley & Guzzetta. “These four cable commissions decided to do something about it.” Comcast had insisted its fee was an unregulated service fee.
All four cable commissions, represented by Mike Bradley and Steve Guzzetta, engaged Dick Treich of Front Range Consulting, Inc. (http://www.frc-inc.com), a municipal cable financial consultant based in Denver. Based on the Report of Mr. Treich, the Commissions all adopted rate orders requiring Comcast to unbundle the equipment from three different so-called “service fees.”
“Comcast was charging a DTA Fee, an HD Technology Fee and an HD/DVR Service Fee,” said Mike Bradley. “All of these fees far exceeded the maximum rate that Comcast was allowed to charge for the equipment.” Bradley explained, “If you pay an HD Technology Fee, you get an HD set-top box. The HD box unscrambles the cable signal so you can see the HD channel on your TV. Comcast was charging $10 per month for this “service,” which is about $8 more than the allowable rate for the HD set-top box. Now Comcast has to explain to its subscribers that not only is it charging for the equipment, but also some type of additional service for something that the set-top box already does. I think subscribers will not tolerate being double charged.”
Because of the Commissions’ actions, the FCC confirmed that “the equipment regulations still apply to all the equipment in a subscriber's home that is provided and maintained by the cable operator and that is used to receive the BST [Basic Service Tier], even if it is also used to receive additional tiers of unregulated services.”
Cable operators across the country will no longer be allowed to hide equipment fees in so-called service fees. According to Steve Guzzetta, “Now all cable operators across the country, not just Comcast, will have to explain to its customers why they charge subscribers for equipment and a corresponding service that the equipment already provides. Certainly this is a victory for transparency in cable billing.”
The Commissions may not be done with this issue. “Comcast repeatedly represented to its subscribers and local franchising authorities throughout the country that subscribers would see no change in their current monthly service-level cost as a result of Comcast’s digital migration or transition,” said Bradley. “Then the rug was pulled out on them and they started getting charged for a service that they never signed up for. Customers were told to get equipment and then were charged for a service. Comcast was being cute with classification language to charge a higher price than it was otherwise allowed to charge in order to line their pockets at the expense of subscribers. That seems to be a violation of the Cable Act’s prohibition against negative option billing.” “The Commissions continue to examine the issue,” said Guzzetta.
Bradley & Guzzetta, LLC has been in existence for fifteen years led by its partners Mike Bradley and Steve Guzzetta, both of whom have been practicing law over 20 years. They are located at 1976 Woodale Drive, Suite 3A, Woodbury, MN 55125. For more information, please call (651) 379-0900 or visit http://www.bradleyguzzetta.com.
About Bradley & Guzzetta, LLC
Bradley & Guzzetta, LLC is a well-respected legal and consulting firm that has a nationally recognized telecommunications, broadband and cable television practice. In addition to their telecommunications practice, their firm also represents individuals and businesses locally on a wide range of civil matters.
Contacts: Mike Bradley & Steve Guzzetta
(651) 379-0900 ext. 101 and 102