Time Warner Charges You $0.23 For The Coupons Included In Your Bill

Time Warner charged Nick $0.23 for the Home Shopping Network coupon included in his monthly bill. The “Adhsn fee” listed on his bill was an oversight, according to a Time Warner representative, who defended the omnipresent charge as something that is usually “just bundled somewhere else.” Nick writes:

I’m a Time Warner customer in Charlotte, NC and recently got my August bill. Looking over it as usual, there is a new fee “ADHSN Fee” of 23 cents. I know FCC and taxes, but ADHSN I didn’t comprehend. After calling customer service the agent was perplexed and finally realized that they were charging me for the Home Shopping Network ad/coupon they included in my bill. Apparently, they claim this charge has always been there, it’s just bundled somewhere else. I think they are full of crap. Plus he claimed he couldn’t remove it. So now I have to pay to be advertised to. 23 cents to 100,000 cable customers is $23,000 to put little useless ad in my cable bill. Shouldn’t the home shopping network foot the bill?

Telecoms and cable companies revel in passing every imaginable cost on to the consumer, aided by staff neologists who obscure fees with nonsensical and misleading names. Fighting a $0.23 charge is about principles. If you really want it off your bill, call back and escalate to a supervisor.

We called Time Warner to ask if charging for coupons was standard practice. Though they have yet to get back to us with an official comment, one Time Warner representative offhandedly remarked: “Oh God, I hope it’s not standard practice.”

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/full_bill-thumb.jpg?w=478&h=358

http://consumermediallc.files.wordpress.com/2007/08/angled-thumb.jpg?w=478&h=358

Comments

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  1. Buran says:

    Whatever happened to costs of doing business?

  2. awall25 says:

    God bless America.

  3. rubberpants says:

    Access Support Fee? What the smack is that?
    Telecommunications Relay Surcharge? Why not just put the Ambiguous Markup Fee in there?

  4. B says:

    I’m assuming that “ADHSN Fee” means adhesion fee. Shouldn’t HSN be paying for the coupons, though?

  5. Tengaport says:

    I wonder how much the coupon was worth (if it wasn’t just a useless flyer).

  6. Toof_75_75 says:

    But you get the opportunity to save $15 for just $0.23…You should be grateful! :-p

  7. mrmysterious says:

    Wow, that has to be the most BS charge ever.

    I’d send a bill to HSN for the amount plus your time.

  8. howie_in_az says:

    @Buran: Why pay to do business when the consumer can foot the bill?

  9. ingridc says:

    Ugh. Ridiculous. Glad you caught this, Nick… I’m sure 99.9% of Time Warner customers missed this one, which, of course, is exactly what Time Warner was hoping for. Heck, now that I think about it, I should mention this to my parents who have cable through TW…

  10. timmus says:

    Wow. This is unbelievable… now the telecom companies are creating bills right out of the Used Car Salesman manual. Very nice of them to cloak the purpose of the fee.

    I hope Digg and other sites pick this up — Time Warner needs to have their face rubbed in this dogpile. Sadly enough in an ideal marketplace consumers would find alternate companies, but for every 500 customers that nix Time Warner for this deceptive practice, 5000 more will happily sign up. Sigh.

  11. Dibbler says:

    @B: No, it means Ad Home Shopping Network. Ad HSN -> ADHSN

  12. Mark says:

    oh geez… I live in Greensboro, NC and I’m going to double check my bill.

  13. jothar says:

    Time Warner is running ads all over the NYC subways and buses making fun of Verizon and featuring “Sir Charge”. Looks like Sir Charge pops up on their bills too.

  14. dwarf74 says:

    Hm. Also looks like the N.C. State Sales Tax appears twice – just once with no periods. I’m guessing this was N.C. sales tax on a specific portion of the bill, and their billing system categorized it differently for no good reason.

    I recognize most of the other fees from working in phone billing. The “Access Support Fee” is the only one I don’t off the top of my head. I’m wondering if the Adhsn fee was supposed to normally be bundled in there.

    Still, it’s seriously bad form – and possibly illegal – to charge customers for bill inserts they didn’t request.

  15. dwarf74 says:

    Looking further, the Access Support Fee seems to be charged by the City itself, most likely collected by the service provider and passed on. ([masshightech.bizjournals.com])

    I can’t see anything else in the taxes & fees that looks suspicious. The company doesn’t have much of a choice in the Universal Service Fund – it’s basically a government program to help offset the costs of service to schools & rural areas. ([en.wikipedia.org]).

    So, yeah. In other words, I call bull on the service center’s claim that “this charge has always been there, it’s just bundled somewhere else.” I mean, is the rest of the bill the same as it normally is every month?

  16. megshops says:

    Makes me doubly glad I get my bill on line! I don’t get the ads, and (according to my just-checked Time Warner Charlotte August statemetn) I don’t get billed for them either.

  17. mac-phisto says:

    So now I have to pay to be advertised to.

    i thought that was obvious. you are paying for commercial-laden cable television, aren’t you? what’s another 23 cents on top of $137.63 worth of the best commercial programming money can buy?

  18. TheSeeker says:

    complain directly to the FCC and FTC

    Billing Complaints

    If neither the company sending you the bill nor the company that provided the service in question will remove charges from your telephone bill that you consider to be incorrect, you can file a complaint as follows:

    For charges related to telephone services between states or internationally, you can file a complaint with the FCC. File your complaint via the Internet at: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints_general.html, or by e-mail, telephone, fax, or in writing:

    E-mail: fccinfo@fcc.gov

    Telephone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
    TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)

    Fax: 1-866-418-0232

    Mail:
    Federal Communications Commission
    Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
    Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
    445 12th Street, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20554.

    For charges for telephone-related services provided within your state, you should contact your state public service commission. Contact information for your state public service commission can be found at http://www.naruc.org, or in the blue pages or government section of your local telephone directory.

    For charges on your telephone bill for non-telephone-related services, file your complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or use the FTC’s online complaint form at [rn.ftc.gov]

  19. beyond says:

    $137 for TV. Crazy.

  20. HBoyter says:

    The other thing TW is doing for the internet is billing you for Road Runner w/Turbo and then billing you for Turbo for Road Runner. The numbers billed are correct, but I am told that Road Runner w/Turbo really means Road Runner wo/Turbo, they just don’t see why they might want to fix that service description to avoid confusion. So even though it looks like you are paying for the Turbo service twice, you really are only getting billed once.

  21. raybury says:

    “Adhesion” fee – because you want your bill in a SEALED envelope, right?

  22. Anitra says:

    @beyond: It’s probably internet and phone too, and HDTV or premium channels (HBO) on top of that. Cable: it’s not just for local-access channels anymore!

  23. timmus says:

    @dwarf74 said: Still, it’s seriously bad form – and possibly illegal – to charge customers for bill inserts they didn’t request.

    I’m betting it was buried in the 12 pages of fine print on the new service welcome kit, like “54. Company may at its discretion enter aforementioned customer into service plans of varying nominal cost; due notice shall be provided in the itemization of monthly statement.” Or something like that.

  24. urban_ninjya says:

    wow, $127 for a cable bill. I guess they assumed 23 cents isn’t much for some sucker paying for all the extras in their cable.

  25. DanGarion says:

    I highly doubt that this Adhsn fee has anything to do with Advertising and Home Shopping Network. Nick probably talked to a customer service rep that wasn’t highly versed in the fees and charges that are required by law for Time Warner Cable to operate.

    Advertising is not paid for by the consumer it’s paid for by the advertiser. Just taking a picture with an HSN ad by the line item that has Adhsn isn’t enough for me to believe it was a charge for sending the advertisement. Anyone that thinks this was is gullible.

  26. Buran says:

    @howie_in_az: Because it’s wrong to be such assholes, that’s why.

  27. bnosach says:

    This is ridiculous.

  28. Clobberella says:

    @urban_ninjya:
    I could be wrong, but from the pics it looks like he probably has a bundle of some sort (you normally, for example, don’t get charged a 911 fee for cable.) That’s about how much I pay Comcast every month for cable, internet & phone. I’ve never noticed a hsn charge on my bill but perhaps it’s time to start looking.

  29. Hawk07 says:

    I fought a 39 cent phantom charge that appeared on my CC bill once. The guy took it off without a fight.


    He thought it was maybe from an ATM machine, but considering I haven’t touched one of those things for 2 years, it was out of the question.

    @urban_ninjya:
    that’s roughly what I pay when you include the digital cable, HD, telephone, and internet.

  30. BrianH says:

    Here’s something from the last time I was at a Time Warner SoCal customer service office (best way to get things done, in person).

    There was an agitated elderly man (rightfully so based on what I overheard) and the customer service person behind the bulletproof glass (do they do that everywhere?) STARTED THREATENING TO ASSESS SOME SORT OF SERVICE CHARGE TO HIS ACCOUNT IF HE DIDN’T LEAVE. Something about charging for excessive time for resolve a simple complaint.

    I wanted to call bullshit on the whole thing right there in front of everyone, but a) I was in a hurry, and b) I still had my own battles to fight there, and I certainly didn’t need to agitate anyone else behind the counter.

    Not to mention TWC is implementing packet shaping (I’ve felt the effects already) – I hate these MoFos. Money grubbing, arrogant, no-service dickwads.

    P.S. Eventually the old gent won out. Good for him!

  31. Duncito says:

    We just received a new DVR in our place in Calabasas, CA. The new menuing includes a banner ad that you cannot avoid scrolling on as you scroll the channels. So every 4 items scrolled brings you to the ad. I would dump these guys if I had a choice. They are TERRIBLE.

  32. humphrmi says:

    Dude, after going through this much trouble to find out what the charge was for, I would have at least sent them a nifty letter informing them that I would be disputing the fee and withholding it’s payment until they resolved it to my satisfaction. A properly worded dispute letter sets off a ton of work at their end that costs them a whole lot more than $0.23. Then, I bet they could find a way to reverse the charge. Then complain to the FCC anyway.

  33. lakawak says:

    Of course, this whole story is bullshit. Cojnsumerist is either corrupt to do this, or too stupid to check their facts. Time Warner bills do NOT look like this.

    Seriously…Consumerist could get sued for this article.

  34. lakawak says:

    @BrianH: That is funny…I am calling bullshit on YOUR STORY.

  35. itsgene says:

    “The company doesn’t have much of a choice in the Universal Service Fund…”

    Ah, but they do. That fee is levied against the telecom companies, not the customer. But the companies recoup it directly from customers and carefully position it and annotate it so that the customer is led to believe that it is a government tax on them; the telecom companies shrug and say “it’s a government fee, we have no control over it.”

    In fact, there is no law saying that customers must pay this. It’s a cost of doing business for the companies that pass it along to us.

    Someday, we’ll all be paying a list of fees for a McDonald’s meal, including janitorial fee, tomato slicing surcharge, and vanilla shake mixing charges.

  36. DanGarion says:

    @lakawak: Just because your bill doesn’t look like this doesn’t mean other’s don’t.

    I still don’t think the charge is for an HSN advertisement, but that probably is a real bill.

  37. DanGarion says:

    @itsgene: Time Warner Cable could just as simply just add that charge into the digital phone service fee, and not note on the bill that they are sending the using the money to pay for the Universal Service Fund. 6 in one, 1/2 dozen in the other.

  38. formergr says:

    @lakawak: Waaah?

  39. veterandem says:

    Fortunately, those of us who live in NC have a kick-ass AG (Roy Cooper) who does not take kindly to the little guy getting screwed. Maybe we could put this bug in his ear about being charged for TW and HSN’s cost of business. Why offer me a coupon that I have to pay for? And from the HSN to boot! Ass-clowns.

  40. Nytmare says:

    If only there was enough space on the bill to fully write out what the “ADHSN Fee” really is instead of abbreviating and obfuscating it.

  41. JustAGuy2 says:

    @itsgene:

    This is actually true of every tax. Your local grocery store could just roll sales tax into the price, so the price on the shelf is what they pay. They don’t, to make it clear that “these are the taxes that we’re being charged, and that we’re passing on to you.”

  42. zackola says:

    Jeez, does anyone still get paper bills? This is insane, but just get your bill online.

  43. cp87 says:

    You might try complaining to the postal inspector. I think its illegal to send something unsolicited and then demand payment for it.

  44. Rusted says:

    Hmmm. $137.86 times 12. Sad. That’s $1654.32 per year!

  45. ThinkAboutItPlease says:

    Go get ‘em. This sure seems major stink-worthy to me.

    I can’t stand BS fees. It’s like how flower-delivery companies have “the cost of the flowers” and then a whopping “service charge” — but they only advertise the cost of the flowers…but you can’t get the flowers without the service charge. Similarly, Time Warner probably wants you to have in your mind that you are paying x/month for their service, when the hard reality is that it’s (x+y)/month, where “y” are “fees,” many of which are essentially made up.

    I don’t know why this kind of deception is even legal.

  46. adamwade says:

    Okay, this is going to be a rant. You’ve been warned.

    Time Warner are complete asshats. I have regular old analog cable and internet, and my bill is now over $100 a month. It’s gone up over $14 in the last two years or so.

    I have had these people come to my door to offer me all these digital services I do not want and do not need. I have a Dual Tuner TiVo which captures every program I could ever wish to watch and then some. I don’t need 500 channels showing more reruns of stuff that’s already on regular cable 90% of the time to begin with. Because I already have a TiVo (and not their crappy imitation), I don’t need a channel that shows the same special 20 times in one week. When a show is on is irrelevant to me, I get it the first time, at 2 in the morning, or whenever – that’s the magic of TiVo over DVRs, my TiVo knows I like Clark Gable movies, so I know whenever one is on, it’s going to be on my box.

    Yet these bastards send me 2-3 solicitations a WEEK in the mail. No, I am not exaggerating. I have thought of saving them instead of throwing them in the recycle bin, but it just would frustrate me more. And, as this article proves, yup, I’m paying for it. I don’t want their damned digital cable, I don’t have HDTV (and when I do I will go with the TiVo series 3 anyway, but I’m waiting for cable card 2.0), and I sure as hell don’t want their “digital phone”. You can call it all you want, but it’s internet phone, VoIP, and it’s far, far less reliable especially in emergency situations that a regular old landline. I live in a home my family has lived in for about 60 years, and the same phone number and the same phone jack has never once failed, and when we have had emergencies (including one where the person could not speak) the real, local 911 people were here quicker than any “enhanced 911″ (what a laughable term for a substandard service) ever could. I live a few miles from where the 911 call was dispatched, no matter how quick their service over the internet is, mine was faster.

    These jerks won’t be satisfied until we all have digital packages and I’m paying for the privilige of being annoyed when I open my mail box and a good 1/3 of the time I know there is some damned solicitation in there from them that I’m paying to create, print, and send. Honestly, it’s enough to make me just wanna go HDTV to watch OTA broadcasts only (24, Housewives, and The View are all I really need) and wait for everything else to come out on DVD (anything that’s good will). I *HATE* my cable company, but they so have me by the balls – I can’t beat the convenience of analog cable and internet coming in one jack. If it weren’t for TiVo, I’d have DirectTV and DSL by now, just to spite the bastards. It really bothers me that I continue to deal with a company that does nothing but crap on me.

    End rant, please don’t ban me LOL.

  47. Jabes says:

    @Duncito: Comcast in Chicago has that ad bar, too. Just showed up in the last few months.

  48. shoegazer says:

    @lakawak: judging by your incisive and biting commentary so far, someone REALLY wants attention from Ben. During those lonely summer nights you might want to spoon with an oversized pillow instead.

    on topic, I fought a bogus “equipment return fee” on my cable box for ten months. I didn’t USE their equipment (it was allowed in T&Cs that I used my old box with their card).

  49. Rusted says:

    @adamwade: Unplug it. Seriously, that’s 1200 bucks or more.

  50. grolaw says:

    These nickel and dime charges are the direct result of the changes to the federal Class Action Rule (FRCP 23) by the “Class Action Fairness Act.” This law precludes the ability of consumers to seek recovery where they are victims of small ($2-200.00) overcharges.

    No one consumer can waste the time and effort to sue (assuming that they *can* sue – many of these businesses include a mandatory arbitration clause in their agreements) for such small amounts.

    The Class Action Fairness Act precludes nation-wide actions – often the only way to remedy the losses of millions – and make the complex litigation cost effective to pursue by plaintiff’s attorneys.

    All the Class Action Fairness Act has done is to remove the threat of a massive class action response to vast numbers of corporate small thefts. Look up the E-911 class action – filed before the change in the law it provided remedies to almost every telephone subscriber – who typically paid $24.00/year more than the cost of the service to the Telco.

    We will continue to be nickel & dimed to death unless the law is changed back to permit recovery for national classes who have lost very small amounts.

  51. ncboxer says:

    I just looked at my TW bill and it does include a Adhsn fee of $0.22. Then I looked at last month’s bill. The total bill was exactly the same as last month, and it didn’t have the Adhsn fee. What I found is that last month, the Franchise Fee was $0.62, where as this month it is only $0.40.

    So $0.22 + $0.40 = $0.62. So, yeah I guess they usually do bundle the fee in somewhere else. Since the total cost is the same as last month, I’m not going to bother with it.

  52. nightshadowon says:

    @zackola: What I wonder is if people in NC get their bills online and not by paper are they still getting charged this ADHSN fee?

  53. legalbeagle123 says:

    Folks … there’s a simple, simple solution to this. Two words:

    “Mail Fraud”

    Another phrase:

    “Continuing criminal enterprise”

    Another word:

    “Conspiracy”

    And just for fun, let’s toss in an acronym:

    “RICO”

    Stop calling customer service plebes in India and start trolling for ambulance-chaser-type lawyers with nothing better to do than to file class-action lawsuits.

    There’s MILLIONS in this for the right attorney smart enough to make enough trouble so that the Verizons and AT&Ts and TMobile capo’s will pay you to go away.

  54. beyond says:

    Wow, $137, that’s normal? I have Comcast high speed broadband and basic cable that gives me all the local and network channels (like SciFi, History, CNN – about 70 channels) and I only pay $60. My phone is only $25, all after taxes/fees. So if you have a bundle you’re paying another $52 for digital HD? Seems pricey.

  55. beyond says:

    I think it stands for “Ad HSN”, not Adhesion. They completely spell out all the other charge descriptions, why would they decide to cut 3 letters out of “Adhesion”?

  56. DanGarion says:

    @Duncito:
    That sounds like you have a Motorola box. That was advertising that was built into the box from Adelphia. A fried of mine has the same box. In the Time Warner Cable areas in Southern California there is no such advertising on the guide of the cable box.

  57. Myron says:

    I’ll be checking my bill tonight. I long ago gave up trying to understand all the crap in there. But this is special.

  58. daveinFL says:

    You’ve got to be kidding. Paying to receive ads in the bill? They ought to be paying me.

  59. forever_knight says:

    your bill is $137 a month and you really care about $0.23? don’t you have a quadrillion channels to be watching instead?

  60. bcgrote says:

    These charges add up.

    A few months ago I noticed a $4.95 charge for “wireless internet” on our ever increasing bill. As all our computers are hardwired, I was concerned about this charge. I checked my online bill, and it showed this charge going back the entire viewable 6 months.

    (When we first got TWC internet, the install tech OPENED MY COMPUTER and installed a wireless card, despite my placing a roll of CAT-5 cable next to my computer. This card thing never worked right, was NOT requested or needed, and I ended up plugging in the cable myself.)

    We did NOT have a wireless internet charge on the bill right after the internet was installed over 3 years ago, so I don’t know how long I had been getting this charge.

    I called TWC and requested they removed this charge. They removed only 3 months worth of this charge.

    At five bucks a month, this charge could have been equivalent to a few months of cable service!


    I see all these commercials for getting a full YEAR of service for a fraction of what I pay. Of course, it’s only a new customer incentive. I would think these companies would offer a customer retention rate occasionally! Although in my area, the other option for cable tv is Cox Cable, a scandal-plagued company that doesn’t offer the channels we require….

  61. psm321 says:

    @Duncito: My comcast box added that ad a few months after I got it, very annoying. :(

  62. Lazlo Nibble says:

    All you Motorola-box people who hate that ad at the bottom of the menu: do you not have “page down” buttons on your remotes?

    (I loathed my Moto DVR box until I learned that if you never, ever turn it off, it actually sort-of works. Now I just sneer at it occasionally, and when the drive starts to fill up, threaten to replace it with a TiVo HD.)

  63. DanGarion says:

    @bcgrote:
    It sounds to me that you have Time Warner’s networking service? Or do you have your own router? They call it wireless regardless if you use the wireless portion of the router.

  64. Consumer007 says:

    Why not just label it a “customer punishment fee” or a “business incompetence fee” or a “CEO extortion fee”? I think those are all accurate to some degree…this goes right along with Northwest Airlines “Ticket Counter fees” and Bank “Lobby Service Fees”.

    Seriously, though, someone should really spread this all over YouTube and give them the publicity mega-Black eye they so richly deserve for this. And then file a mega-calss action lawsuit for false billing.

    I hope they get also ten bazillion angry calls over this and whoever’s bright idea this was is escorted out of the building post haste…maybe it will make them think twice about doing the same thing when they then inevitably go to work for Comcast, Qwest or DirectTV network.

  65. chatterboxwriting says:

    @beyond: My Comcast bill was over $150 a month for a while. My roommate had HBO, DVR, and digital cable when I moved in, so we just split the bill each month. When she moved out, I dumped HBO, digital cable, and DVR (I would have kept the DVR, except Comcast kept trying to charge me $5 a month extra for HD DVR when A) I don’t have an HD TV and B) Comcast does not offer HD service in my area [we’re somewhat rural]). My bill now is $62 and change for just cable Internet and standard cable TV, but that’s because I got a promotional price for the Internet for 6 months. Right now, I pay $19.99 for Internet and $42.75 for standard cable. When my 6 months is up, my Internet will go back to $42.95 again.

  66. Haltingpoint says:

    As much as I hate TimeWarner, I think people are looking into this a bit too much.

    Was it a mistake to include this on the bill? Yes. Should they have credited it when questions about it? Absolutely. Should they continue to pass this cost on to their customers? OF COURSE!

    Every business has its operating expenses that it pays for out of the revenue it receives from its paying customers–its just not usually that transparent.

    Corporations exist to make a profit and as much as we’d like them to provide everything at cost to us, it ain’t going to happen. Aside from the slap in the face of being made to realize that you are paying to be advertised to, it really shouldn’t matter that they are passing ad costs on to you versus the cost of the chairs their employees sit in for example. All of their costs are passed on to you to some extent. This is true of ANY business, not just TW.

  67. girly says:

    [www2.state.id.us]

    Apparently in Idaho, you can accept an unordered item as a free gift, and tell them you will not be paying for it. So maybe you could dock .23 off your bill!