DIRECTV Objects to FCC Rules That Would Ban Hidden Fees & Early Termination Penalties





For some time now, the FCC has been talking about banning hidden fees in cable TV bills. The FCC has officially announced it will vote on rules that would once and for all end the practice of having hidden fees. This includes rules that will ban early termination fees on cable TV.

The FCC says these new proposed rules would make cable TV and video services have clear, easy-to-understand bills with accurate information. With these rules, the advertised price will have to be the true price.

Representatives for DIRECTV filed a briefing with the FCC to argue that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to ban hidden fees and early termination penalties. “Even if we agreed with the All-In Pricing Order’s Section 335 reasoning (which we do not), that reasoning suggests that the Commission lacks authority to impose ETFs/BCFs or rebates. In response to the argument that Section 335(b)(3) confers authority over prices, terms, and conditions only in connection with educational channel capacity, the All-In Pricing Order states that an all-in pricing mandate is not a regulation of prices, terms, or conditions. The Commission thus appeared to acknowledge that it would be impermissible to regulate prices, terms, or conditions of service outside of educational channel capacity.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that even if these new rules are passed that DIRECTV and others will likely fight them in court.

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. 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 the 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). 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.

It will likely take some time for the FCC to work these rules into becoming law.

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