For some time now, the FCC has been talking about banning hidden fees in cable TV bills. Today, the FCC has officially adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would seek to end the practice, which includes moving to ban early termination fees on cable TV.
The FCC says these new proposed rule would make bills from cable TV and video services clearer and easier to understand with accurate information. The rule would make the advertised price, the true price of the service.
“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 back went the rules were first announced. “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.”
The move comes after President Joe Biden has made eliminating junk fees from a myriad of industries, from cable TV to hotels, a priority. The White House has pushed several agencies to tackle stripping out these fees, which can come as a surprise for customers.
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.
It will likely take some time for the FCC to work these rules into becoming law but this is an important step in that process.