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.
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.
We 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.