The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday announced that Comcast will pay a $2.3 million fine to settle a multi-year probe into whether or not the telecoms giant charged its cable customers for services they never authorised.
The FCC says it received multiple complaints from Comcast customers saying that they were being billed for “unordered services or products, such as premium channels, set-top boxes, or digital video recorders (DVRs).”
In some cases, according to the FCC, these charges were the result of a practice called “negative option billing,” in which a consumer winds up paying for a service unless they explicitly go out of their way to decline it from their bill. Other customers, meanwhile, claimed Comcast kept charging them even after turning those services and upgrades down.
The fine is a drop in the bucket for a company the size of Comcast, but the FCC says it’s the “largest civil penalty assessed from a cable operator” by the organisation.
Comcast will also be required to adopt a five-year compliance plan in which the company will have to implement procedures that ensure customers give “affirmative informed consent” before they can be billed for new services and equipment. It will also have to give customers the option to prevent new services from being added to their accounts. (this apparently wasn’t mandated before.)
In a statement, Comcast acknowledged that its “customer service should have been better and [its] bills clearer,” but claimed that most of the policies it’s being forced to adopt were ones that it was “already committed to make.” It also claimed that the complaints noted in the FCC’s investigation were the result of “isolated errors or customer confusion.”
Regardless of whether or not that’s true, the fine should make the company keep a closer eye on its customer service efforts from now on. It also might encourage more people to issue a formal complaint when there are issues with their bill.
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