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FCC proposes requirement for cable TV operators to fully disclose their pricing

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday proposed a rule that would require cable TV and broadcast satellite operators to disclose to consumers the full pricing for video programming services in promotional materials and on their bills – a plan quickly endorsed by President Joe Biden.

The FCC’s proposal is intended to force these companies to make clear the “all-in” cost to consumers rather than concealing the true price by hitting subscribers with various taxes, fees and surcharges excluded from the promoted pricing.

The plan would require providers to disclose the total cost of video programming service – including broadcast retransmission consent, regional sports programming and other programming-related fees – as a prominent single line item on bills and in promotional materials.

Major cable TV companies include Comcast Corp, Cox Communications, Charter Communications and others. Satellite providers include Dish Network.

Biden said in a statement that too often “these companies hide additional junk fees on customer bills disguised as ‘broadcast TV’ or ‘regional sports’ fees that in reality pay for no additional services.”

The Democratic president has criticized fees in a number of industries including airlines, credit card providers, concert ticket websites and others, saying businesses use “junk fees to hide true costs from families, who end up paying more as a result.”

“The ‘all-in’ pricing format we propose (on Tuesday) would allow consumers to make informed choices by letting them more easily comparison shop among competing providers and evaluate programming costs against alternative programming providers, including streaming services,” FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.

The proposal now faces a 90-day public comment period before going to a vote before the full FCC.

NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, an industry group representing the major cable TV companies, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ACA Connects, which represents smaller video providers, said its members “are committed to transparency in their sales and billing practices.” The group said these providers want to “ensure that any new requirements do not have the unintended effect of making video prices more opaque or confusing for subscribers.”

The Democratic-led Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday plans to hold a hearing on Biden’s nomination of attorney Anna Gomez to the FCC. Democrats had been stymied by Senate Republicans since Biden took office in January 2021 from gaining a majority on the five-member telecommunications regulatory agency.

The FCC in November finalized rules to require U.S. broadband internet providers to display information similar to nutrition labels on food products to help consumers shop for broadband internet services.

The rules require broadband providers to display, at the time of sale, labels that show prices, speeds, fees and data allowances. The labels were first unveiled by the FCC as a voluntary step in 2016. Reuters

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