Cable Bills Are About to Change — for the Better

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Hidden TV charges soon will become a thing of the past.

Cable and satellite TV companies will be required to disclose “the total monthly charge” for a service under a newly enacted federal law, the Television Viewer Protection Act.

That total charge — which must be disclosed before a consumer enters into a contract — includes:

  • “Related administrative fees, equipment fees, or other charges,
  • A good faith estimate of any tax, fee, or charge imposed by the Federal Government or a State or local government (whether imposed on the provider or imposed on the consumer but collected by the provider), and
  • A good faith estimate of any fee or charge that is used to recover any other assessment imposed on the provider by the Federal Government or a State or local government.”

These disclosures apply to TV services that consumers sign up for individually or as part of a bundle.

Consumer Reports, which strongly supported the Television Viewer Protection Act, notes that, currently, consumers often don’t learn of the full cost of a TV service until they receive their first bill.

Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, explains:

“Cable companies shouldn’t be allowed to disguise the true cost of service by charging a long list of add-on fees that aren’t clearly disclosed when customers sign up for service. These reforms will bring fairness and clarity to pay-TV billing, so we can find a plan that fits our budget without having to worry about getting stuck paying hidden fees.”

While the U.S. House first passed the Television Viewer Protection Act in early December, the bill only made it through both chambers of Congress in late December because it was added to a package of spending bills that fund the federal government for fiscal year 2020.

President Donald Trump signed that package into law Dec. 20.

The provision of the Television Viewer Protection Act that requires transparent cable and satellite TV bills takes effect six months after the bill was enacted — that is, six months after Dec. 20.

The law also states, however, that the Federal Communications Commission may grant an additional six-month extension if the federal agency “finds that good cause exists for such an additional extension.”

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