(Corrects spelling error in paragraph 1)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON Oct 11 Comcast Corp, the
largest U.S. cable company, will pay a $2.3 million fine to
resolve a federal investigation into allegations the company
wrongfully charged cable TV customers for services and equipment
they never authorized.
The Federal Communications Commission said on Tuesday it had
received numerous complaints from consumers that Comcast added
charges to their bills for unordered services, including premium
channels, set-top boxes and digital video recorders.
Comcast will implement a five-year compliance plan as part
of a consent decree, the FCC said, and must offer a detailed
program for responding to consumer complaints "in a standardized
and expedient fashion."
By next year, the FCC said, Comcast must send customers a
separate order confirmation of new services, allow customers to
block additional cable services, improve customer record keeping
and require additional employee training for individuals placing
excessive unauthorized charges on customer bills.
Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice said the company did
not agree with the FCC's legal theory but added, "We acknowledge
that, in the past, our customer service should have been better
and our bills clearer." She also said Comcast had already
committed to make most changes sought by the FCC.
The FCC investigation found numerous examples of Comcast
billing customers for services they did not want but would not
refund charges. Customers were often told by Comcast that the
company would only address six months of billing issues because
of its computer systems, the FCC said.
In June, a U.S. Senate panel found overbilling to thousands
of consumers by Charter Communications Inc and Time
Warner Cable, which has since been acquired by Charter.
The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said
the companies made no effort to trace equipment overcharges
unless consumers asked and did not provide notice or refunds.
Comcast told the Senate panel it would make it easier for
consumers to cancel service without being forced to stay on the
phone and answer questions.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)