Consumer Reports’ new What the Fee?! program looks at the surprise add-ons that can jack up consumers’ bills
Consumers hate unexpected charges on everything from airline tickets to cellular bills.
That’s why Consumers Reports is launching a program called “What the Fee?!” The goal is to highlight surprising charges—and help consumers fight back.
No fees seem to bother consumers more than the ones on their cable bills. And this week, Consumer Reports plans to deliver more than 100,000 petition signatures to Comcast, the giant internet-and-cable provider, calling on the company to address the issue.
“With the proliferation of add-on fees, it’s nearly impossible for consumers to find out the full cost of a cable package before they get locked into a contract—and cable companies count on this,” says Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports. “These confusing, often misleadingly named charges continue to drive up consumer bills, even if you lock in a promotional rate.”
When we asked about unexpected fees, hundreds of Consumer Reports members told us about cable TV charges that drove their monthly charges higher than what they thought they’d been promised. Consumer Reports received the largest number of complaints about Comcast’s Xfinity service, but members cited a number of companies.
One way to combat unexpected fees is to join Consumers Union’s effort by going to WhatTheFee.com and signing our petition—we plan to continue urging cable companies to make their pricing more transparent.
You can also consider cutting off your cable TV service. Even if you keep internet and phone service from the same company, the following add-ons should go away:
Broadcast TV Fee, $4 to $11
Networks such as ABC and Fox have always charged cable companies for content—and yet somehow that’s not baked into the advertised price.
Sports Surcharge, $7 to $12
This pays for regional sports networks, but no one tells you that some are owned by the cable companies themselves.
HD Technology Fees, $10
The HD fee persists as an add-on years after nearly all programming has switched to high-def.
Set-Top Box/Receiver Fees, $7 to $13
You have to rent your cable box and maybe the remote control. Over a few years, these charges can easily add up to more than you paid for the TV itself.
DVR Service, $13 to $25
This is often the biggest added fee in a cable TV bill. It’s what you’re charged for the ability to record shows.
Also, see this latest report on cutting the cord: Consumers Reports: Why it’s Time to Dump Cable TV, and How to Do It.