Comcast is paying one of the biggest fines ever levied on a cable company after regulators said it illegally billed customers for unwanted equipment and services.
In a settlement with the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast is agreeing to pay $2.3 million. It's also agreeing to give consumers a chance to block the addition of new services and equipment if they don't want it.
Some subscribers who complained to the FCC said they'd been charged for premium channels, set-top boxes or video recording devices despite telling the company they weren't looking for upgrades, the agency said Tuesday. Regulators added that many didn't find out about the extra charges until they thought to check their bills or were surprised by emails notifying them of the changes after the fact.
“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, the FCC's top enforcement official.
In the future, Comcast customers who purchase additional services or equipment will get an order confirmation that's separate from their monthly bills, under the terms of Tuesday's settlement.
Comcast said that the agreement is the result of a two-year investigation by the FCC, during which the company had already established a handful of customer-service improvements.
"The changes the Bureau asked us to make were in most cases changes we had already committed to make, and many were already well underway or in our work plan to implement in the near future," the company said in a statement. "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."
Out of Comcast's 27 million customers, "hundreds" were affected by the issue, according to the company.