CR praises House Energy & Commerce Committee for requiring fair and transparent pricing for Pay-TV service

Television Viewer Protection Act requires Pay-TV providers to disclose total cost before consumers sign up for service 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Pay-TV operators would be required to disclose the total price, including all company-imposed fees, before a consumer signs up for a video package under a bill approved today with bipartisan support by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Consumer Reports applauded the committee for passing the Television Viewer Protection Act (HR 5035) and urged lawmakers to continue working to improve price transparency in the telecommunications marketplace.  Nearly 140,000 consumers have sent messages to Congress urging lawmakers to end hidden fees as part of Consumer Reports’ efforts to pass this reform measure.

“Consumers who sign up for video service shouldn’t end up with a case of sticker shock after getting their first bill,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports.  “Cable companies tack on hundreds of dollars in extra fees to the average customer’s bill each year that aren’t always included in the advertised price.  This legislation will help bring fairness and transparency to billing by requiring disclosure of the total cost before consumers sign up for video service.”

Consumers Reports urged lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support price transparency in a letter sent today.  HR 5035 requires pay-TV operators to disclose the total price, including all itemized charges, fees, and estimated taxes, before a consumer signs up for a video package, whether offered individually or as part of a bundled service.  Under the bill, consumers will have the right to cancel service without penalty within 24 hours after receiving notice of the total cost at the point of sale.  Pay-TV providers would be prohibited from charging consumers for equipment they do not use.

In October, Consumer Reports published an extensive report that documented that consumers pay, on average, $450 a year in extra company-imposed fees charged by cable and internet service providers.  Consumer Reports found that consumers are being charged equipment fees for routers and modems even if they choose to use their own devices.  In addition, some providers are starting to charge similar fees for internet access.

“Adding new company-imposed fees to the cost of internet service is a disturbing new trend,” said Schwantes.  “More and more consumers are viewing video content via their broadband internet connection.  Lawmakers should expand the new protections of this bill to all consumers, including those who sign up for internet-only service, and ultimately require that all mandatory fees be included in the advertised price.”

Michael McCauley: mmccauley@consumer.org, 415-431-6747, ext. 7606