FCC cracks down on cable providers' junk fees


Yep, the 'fine print' wins again

If you’ve ever tried to cancel your cable service, it’s possible you were gobsmacked by junk fees. Fed up trying to respond to all those complaints, the Federal  Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to initiate a proposed rule barring cable providers from charging "early termination fees” that can often exceed $200, like it did Karen of Redondo Beach Calif., when she tried to cancel her Spectrum contract.

If you want to think of this as a shell game, you’re entitled to it. You may cancel your service for any number of reasons – moving, financial hardship, or poor service.

According to Mark Chen at Billsmart, you’re probably going to get charged an early termination fee unless you’re dead or in the military, and even in those cases, you’ll need to provide proof.

A tough battle made tougher

The Biden administration has had some wind at its back on the issue of junk fees up to now, but not in this situation. 

The Commission’s efforts are already facing major headwinds from cable providers and trade groups. Accountable.US spokesperson Liz Zelnick said that despite what consumers want, those groups are dropping tens of millions of dollars lobbying against federal efforts.

“CEOs chasing profits would rather make excuses for junk fees than consider it’s a big reason why so many of their customers are cutting the cord,” she said. 

“Americans should have the power to end services they don’t want without being price-gouged with hundreds of dollars in termination junk fees.”

But do you have that power? Sadly, little or nothing at all. The best thing you can do is ask for some mercy on the fees, be sent to someone in “retention” and ask for a better deal, or just suck it up, pay what they’re asking for, and chalk it up as a bad experience.

Ah, the fine print

You see, these companies have “fine print” on their side – and when you signed up for the service, you agreed to what’s in that fine print as was the case with Michelle from South Milwaukee Wisc., when she tried to cancel her Spectrum service.

Michelle’s understanding was that she would get an “adjusted bill,” but when that adjustment never appeared and she called back, the company’s tune changed a bit.

“I was advised today that there is fine print on the bill that says that it doesn't matter when you cancel your service you will have to pay until the end of the billing cycle," she wrote

"At no point during my conversation when I was canceling service, did the agent tell me this, in fact, just the opposite as I already stated above, she said I would get an adjusted bill in the next couple of days."

It's another reason to pay these things with a credit card and let the credit card company do your fighting for you. There’s no guarantee, but as ConsumerAffairs has found out several times over the last year, credit cards do offer more consumer protection than almost anything else. Just sayin’...

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