Regulators from four Oregon communities are asking the state attorney general to look into whether surcharges charged by Comcast for such items as regional sports networks and broadcast retransmission licensing violate state consumer protection laws.
For both the leading cable operators, Comcast and Charter Communications, it’s only the latest flak for these surcharges, which keep rising even for customers who have rates for video services locked in for several years.
"That's a little bait-and-switchy," said Fred Christ, administrator of the Metropolitan Area Communications Commission, which regulates cable TV service in much of Washington County, to the Portland Oregonian.
According to the paper, regulators in Multnomah and Washington counties, along with the cities of Milwaukie and Eugene, have written the Oregon Department of Justice, requesting an investigation of the surcharges.
"We would like to discuss whether you or your staff might see any paths forward under the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act or other regulations," the regulators wrote.
"The cost of retransmission imposed by broadcasters continues to increase significantly as do the costs charged by regional sports programmers, and while these fees are increasing they only defray a portion of what we are being charged to be able to carry these channels,” Comcast responded in a statement.
Comcast is currently fending off a wave of investigations and class-action suits tied to such billing practices. The state of New Jersey, for example, kicked off an investigation 11 months ago over a $9.95 HD charge Comcast tacked onto skinny bundle services in several local markets.
And in October, plaintiffs from seven states sued Comcast for RSN and broadcast surcharge fees, alleging consumer fraud, unfair competition, unjust enrichment and breach of contract.
"Comcast not only charged the fee to new customers, but also added the charge to the bills of existing customers in violation of their contracts which had promised a flat monthly rate for the term of the contract," lead plaintiff Dan Adkins of California said in the 79-page complaint.