Comcast will pay a $2.3 million fine to settle an investigation into whether the company wrongfully charged customers for products and services, the Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday. It's the largest civil penalty ever ordered by the FCC for a cable operator, the commission said.
The FCC, which regulates US media, received complaints from Comcast customers who said they were being billed and charged for premium channels, DVRs, set-top boxes and other products and services they hadn't requested. FCC guidelines and the Communications Act refer to this technique as "cramming."
"It is basic that a cable bill should include charges only for services and equipment ordered by the customer--nothing more and nothing less," Travis LeBlanc, chief of the FCC's enforcement bureau, said in a statement. "We expect all cable and phone companies to take responsibility for the accuracy of their bills and to ensure their customers have authorized any charges."
In addition to the $2.3 million fine, Comcast has agreed to establish a program addressing disputed charges that doesn't place an additional burden on customers.
While that may be the largest penalty the FCC has issued to a cable company, the agency has imposed other hefty fines, including last year's $100 million fine to AT&T for misrepresenting its unlimited data service.
Comcast said in a statement that it's been working to improve its customer experience.
"We acknowledge that, in the past, our customer service should have been better and our bills clearer, and that customers have at times been unnecessarily frustrated or confused," the company said. "That's why we had already put in place many improvements to do better for our customers even before the FCC's Enforcement Bureau started this investigation almost two years ago."
The company added that it does not agree with the bureau's "legal theory" in the matter: "After two years, it is telling that it found no problematic policy or intentional wrongdoing, but just isolated errors or customer confusion. We agree those issues should be fixed and are pleased to put this behind us and proceed with these customer service-enhancing changes."
Read the full FCC order here.
First published October 11 at 9:57 a.m. PT.
Update 11:39 a.m. PT: Added comment from Comcast.