Consumer Reports did some digging into individual cable bills, and has concluded that cable customers on average are hit with $450 per year in hidden fees.
The publication’s conclusion is based on analysis of approximately 800 different cable bills from 2018 from customers across the country. Consumer Reports accused cable and other pay TV providers of burying fees “deep in the fine print,” and providing incomplete or inaccurate information about their fees to prospective customers.
“Cable companies are notorious for advertising a low price, but charging much more by adding a long list of confusing fees to monthly bills,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, in a statement. “These sneaky fees are a real budget-buster that enable cable companies to jack up their rates and disguise the true cost consumers pay each month.”
Consumer Reports claimed that cable companies about 10 years ago began throwing on additional fees – like Broadcast TV Fee, Regional Sports Surcharge, HD Technology Fee, and Network Access and Maintenance Fee – on top of the advertised rates for packages. The publication estimated that these company-imposed fees cost consumers about $37 per month (or $450 per year). The publication also claimed that the average cable bill includes 13 line item charges, and that pay TV providers could be making an estimated $28 billion a year from charging company-imposed fees.
Consumer Reports also conducted a secret shopper investigation, and had anonymous callers posing as potential customers contact Charter, Comcast, DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon. The publication said some customer service representatives offered the shoppers accurate information about company-imposed fees but that the majority did not, and some incorrectly blamed the government for fees or failed to mention fees at all.
“Pricing for cable service should be fair and transparent so we can find a plan that fits our budget without having to worry about getting stuck paying hidden fees,” said Schwantes. “Congress should require cable providers to include all company and government-imposed fees in their advertised prices to make it easier to comparison shop and find the most affordable package.”