For some time now, the FCC has been talking about banning hidden fees in cable TV bills. This is reportedly part of a bigger plan by the Biden administration to block junk fees not just on cable TV but on all kinds of companies. This week the FCC has officially announced it will vote on rules that would once and for all end hidden fees in cable contracts. This includes rules that will ban early termination fees on cable TV.
According to the FCC, these new proposed rules would force cable TV and video services to provide customers with clear, easy-to-understand bills with accurate information. With this rule, the advertised price will have to be the true price.
“No one wants to pay junk fees for something they don’t want or can’t use. When companies charge customers early termination fees, it limits their freedom to choose the service they want,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “In an increasingly competitive media market, we should make it easier for Americans to use their purchasing power to promote innovation and expand competition within the industry.”
Here is how the FCC describes these new rules:
Proposal details. We propose to require that cable operators and DBS providers aggregate the cost of the video programming service (that is, any and all amounts that the cable operator or DBS provider charges the consumer for video programming, including for broadcast retransmission consent, regional sports programming, and other programming-related fees) as a prominent single line item on subscribers’ bills and in promotional materials, if they choose to advertise a price in those promotional materials.9 We intend for this aggregate amount to include the full amount the cable operator or satellite provider charges (or intends to charge) the customer in exchange for video programming service (such as broadcast television, sports programming, and entertainment programming), but nothing more (that is, no taxes or charges unrelated to video programming).10 The goal of this proposal is to provide consumers with the video programming service portion of their subscription payment for which they are or will be responsible in clear terms. This will allow consumers to make informed choices, including the ability to comparison shop among competing cable operators and DBS providers; compare programming costs against alternative programming providers, including streaming services; and budget for the actual amount that they will need to pay for cable or DBS video service every month, similar to the truth-in-billing rules that the Commission has in place to aid common carrier customers in understanding their bills and making informed choices in the market.
What does this mean for cord cutters?
The best news is that this will make becoming a cord cutter easier. No longer will cable TV companies be able to hide fees inside cable TV bills that prevent consumers from canceling early.
In the long run, if the FCC takes over management of the internet these rules could also apply to hidden fees on internet services also.
Remember: even after these rules are voted on and pass, it will take time for them to become law.