By Michael Campbell, News Editor
DINWIDDIE – Cable, Internet and phone service provider Comcast confirmed that fees for some services they provide would be going up as we approach the close of 2016.
According to a letter from Comcast officials, several of its “Double Play” packages, along with its Xfinity brand television and Internet services will see modest increases of approximately $5 per month.
In a letter being distributed to customers, Comcast officials cite a number of factors leading to the increases taking effect on Dec. 20.
“As we continue to make improvements to our products and services, and as programmers charge more to carry their networks, our cost of doing business increases,” explained Government Affairs manager Yantee Neufville in a statement.
This scheduled increase comes on the heels of an earlier price increase around the start of the year, according to Consumer Reports. In a Feb. 2016 report, the publication noted that Comcast was hiking its broadcast TV fee, which covers the cost of retransmission of local television channels.
As a result, Consumer Reports states that the broadcast TV fee rose from $3 to $5 in 2016, a 66 percent increase. In addition, the publication stated that most of Comcast’s double-play packages rose $3 to $4 in cost per month.
In Comcast’s letter to neighboring Prince George customers, the Broadcast TV fee is rising again from $5 to $7 effective Dec. 20. In addition, adding an additional adapter to a home will rise as well, from $3.99 to $5.99.
The recent increases to broadcast TV fees has drawn criticism and legal action from consumers. A report from online publication Ars Technica notes a proposed lawsuit that accuses the company of falsely advertising low prices and then using fees to increase the amount paid by customers, noting the recent increases in broadcast TV fees.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California in early October, alleges that “Comcast conceals and misrepresents the fees in its advertising and in its communications with prospective customers,” “commits billing fraud by subtracting the invented fees from the top-line service price in its bills and instead hiding and disguising the charges elsewhere in the bill,” and “any customers who [questions] Comcast about the bogus charges, Comcast staff and agents explicitly lie by stating that the Broadcast TV Fee and the Regional Sports Fee are government-related fees or taxes over which Comcast has no control.”
The proposed class action adds that those customers who are in a multi-year contract for a fixed rate are not immune, with the lawsuit noting, “By increasing these fees in the middle of the contract term, Comcast has found a way to secretly and repeatedly increase the monthly price it charges for its channel packages despite its promise to charge a flat rate for one or two years.”
Comcast provided a statement to Ars Technica following the complaint, stating, “We have been working to make it easier for customers to understand what they’re paying for, which is why we list the Broadcast TV and Regional Sports fee separately on the bill and include disclaimers about them in our advertising. It’s also worth noting that the complaint itself demonstrates that these fees are disclosed and that they’re not part of promotional pricing.”
In 2014, Comcast officials stated that their “programming costs have increased by over 130 percent over the past ten years while our consumer pricing has increased at about half that rate,” crediting their success at negotiating key programming deals in the marketplace, adding that they believe this method is “the right place for buyers and sellers to make deals without government intervention.”
For Dinwiddie customers, Neufville noted that they were able to “identify some charges to be reduced or eliminated,” looking specifically at charges for in-home service visits.
“Customers will no longer be charged separately for the services performed during a service call and will instead get everything they need – including installation, activation, and relocation of additional outlets after an initial installation of service, in-home service charges and more, all for a flat rate of $40,” remarked Neufville in a statement.
Official did state this “flat rate” of $40 for service calls will not apply to Xfinity Home service calls.
“While some prices may have increased, we are always investing in technology to drive innovation,” Neufville explained. “We are working hard to bring our customers great value everyday and exciting new developments in the near future,” noting their expanding nationwide WiFi hot spot program, their growing Xfinity X1 set-top box platform and others.
Customers with questions about all taxes, fees and surcharges can visit http://xfinity.com/pricechanges for more information.
Copyright 2016 by Womack Publications