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February 15, 2016

If You Don’t Check Your Cable Bill…

Filed under: Electronics,Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:24 am

How good are you at scrutinizing your monthly bills for your cellphone, cable, Internet, telephone, credit card, and other services? Many people simply don’t have the time or inclination to do so, or are so turned off by the complexity of these bills that they have given up even trying to decipher them.

If you fail to do so, however, you are putting your wallet in financial jeopardy, as this story illustrates.

We received a complaint from Paula G. who noticed a charge on her Comcast bill for $4.20 for something called “The Cable Guide.” She believed this was the onscreen programming listing, or maybe even an enhanced version that appeared on her TV set.


Comcast bill

When she called Comcast to find out, the representative couldn’t explain what it exactly referred to, but volunteered to remove it from her bill going forward. Not satisfied, the consumer contacted us.

We asked her if this was something she had ordered, and how long she was being billed for it. The consumer indicated that she has been a Comcast customer for about 20 years at her location, that she generally just pays her bills without reviewing them carefully, and that a review of the oldest Comcast bill she had — from January 2007 — showed the same $4.20 a month charge on it too.

Yikes! She’s been paying over $50 a year for nine years for this program guide.

TV GuideWe contacted the PR folks at Comcast, who were extremely responsive. Within a few days, they offered an explanation. Our consumer was being billed for a TV Guide subscription that they say she ordered. “The Cable Guide” was a separate magazine that Comcast offered years ago. TV Guide purchased it, and subsequently sent subscribers TV Guide instead.

When told of this, Paula G. contended that she never ordered TV Guide or The Cable Guide– and that it might have been crammed onto her bill. After all, she contends, why would she have directed the magazine to be sent to her work address where there is no television.

Comcast strongly denied that it would add something like this onto a customer’s bill without them actually ordering it. Nonetheless, as a goodwill gesture, the company agreed to refund one year’s worth of TV Guide — about $50.

Incidentally, it should be noted that Comcast is charging up to three times the going subscription rate for TV Guide — it sells for only $16.50 a year on the magazine’s own website. And unlike virtually any other magazine seller, Comcast does not send you an annual renewal notice that you affirmatively have to return in order to continue the subscription.

We suggested to Comcast that at the very least the line on monthly bills for “The Cable Guide” really should say “TV Guide magazine subscription” so customers would know exactly what the $4.20 charge was for. As of last Thursday, Comcast reports that they have changed the wording on customers’ bills.

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  1. Make sure to read every line, especially when companies try to bundle multiple charges as one line item charge. Do not let them get away with that.

    Comment by Wayne R — February 15, 2016 @ 10:46 am
  2. The words “CLASS ACTION” jump right out of this story.

    Comment by David G — February 15, 2016 @ 11:57 am
  3. Did she EVER receive either magazine?

    Thee are many below-the-line fees added to cable and cell phone bills. Watch out for them.

    Edgar replies: Yes, at her work address, not where her Comcast service is.

    Comment by bobl — February 15, 2016 @ 3:18 pm
  4. A class-action suit will never work. If you read Comcast terms of service they require you to take binding arbitration and you can not file in the courts. Another big company takes away your rights even if they are wrong.

    Comment by Joseph — February 15, 2016 @ 6:31 pm
  5. While overcharging for TV Guide (which no longer actually provides guide listings!) is a sleazy thing for Comcast to do (and continue to do), the customer service interaction with them in this instance seems very good.

    “Yes, we’ve been overcharging you for a product you requested (or we provided by default) decades ago. Would you like us to stop?”

    Comment by Robert — February 15, 2016 @ 6:44 pm
  6. Is COMCAST still the most ‘hated’ company in North America? Their CSRs are the worst.

    Comment by Gerry Pong — February 22, 2016 @ 1:26 pm

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