Comcast is already being sued over its “Broadcast TV” and “Regional Sports” surcharges, with customers alleging that the cable company uses these fees to illegally raise rates. Now, several local regulators are calling on their state attorney general to investigate Comcast over these dubious add-on charges.
The Oregonian reports that four different community cable regulators in Oregon has asked the state’s Department of Justice to look into these fees, which allow cable operators to effectively increase their rates without having to change the price they advertise to the public. Even subscribers who are locked into contractual pricing for their service can see their rates go up because of fee increases.
Pay-TV providers claim that these fees help them recoup the increased costs of carrying local TV stations and regional sports networks. However, critics contend that those costs are just part of doing business; if they cause rates to go up, then the base rates should be changed, rather than hiding the price increase in surcharges that can add as much as $12/month to your bill.
The regional sports fee is particularly galling to people in markets where Comcast owns the primary regional sports channel. Such is the case in Portland, where the majority of Trail Blazers games are aired on Comcast SportsNet Northwest.
According to the Oregonian, the combined broadcast and regional sports fees levied by Comcast have soared in recent years, from $1.50/month in 2014 to $11/month currently.
The four county and city regulators have asked the state to look into whether these fees, which are not included in Comcast’s advertised rates, violate the Oregon Unlawful Trade Practices Act or other regulations.
Comcast is not the only company that is in hot water over these regional sports fees. Charter (and, by extension, Time Warner Cable) are also being sued by customers who say the cable provider is misleading customers into believing that these fees are required by the government.
Earlier this year, we found that DirecTV was assessing its regional sports fees in a way that made no sense — charging customers in neighboring ZIP codes up to $87/year more even though they were receiving identical programming packages. The AT&T-owned satellite provider later admitted that this was an error and that refunds would be provided to customers who overpaid.