Charter/Time Warner Cable Tries To Defend “Broadcast TV” Fee; Says It’s All About Transparency

Last week, a Time Warner Cable customer sued the cable-TV and its parent, Charter Communications over fees that significantly increase subscribers’ bills and allegedly imply that they are surcharges required by the government. Now Charter is commenting on the fees, claiming that this confusing fee is part of the company’s “simple to understand” strategy.

To quickly recap: Charter/TWC charges a “Broadcast TV Surcharge” to recoup the money it spends to carry local, over-the-air TV stations. In some markets, it also adds “Sports Programming” to the surcharge to recover costs related to carriage deals with regional sports networks. While this surcharge adds nearly $9/month to many customers’ bills and can not be avoided, it is not included in the monthly rate marketed to consumers.

Additionally, the lawsuit questions the language used on TWC bills which explains that “TWC imposes surcharges to recover costs of complying with its governmental obligations.” The plaintiff — who is not seeking financial damages, just for Charter to change its policies — contends that this inaccurately implies that the surcharge is required or related to a government expense.

The company has still not responded to Consumerist’s request for comment sent on Nov. 11, but Charter did provide the following statement to Ars Technica:

“Charter is committed to offering its customers superior products at a better value, including the fastest base broadband speed and the most HD video,” says Charter. “Our customer friendly approach includes simplified pricing and packaging with no data caps, no modem fee, no early termination fee and no separate USF [Universal Service Fund] fee. We provide simple to understand bills and want our customers to understand what they are paying for, including the skyrocketing cost of broadcast channels.”

It’s the “simple to understand” portion of the statement that really falls short. If it were truly simple to understand, we wouldn’t have had so many requests to do our line-by-line breakdowns of cable and internet bills.

If Charter really wanted the world to know about the “skyrocketing cost of broadcast channels,” why is it not being upfront with new customers about the fact that the advertised price is nowhere near the price they will pay?

As for some of the other benefits touted in the statement, DSL Reports points out that it’s a bit disingenuous for Charter to boast about not having data caps, when that is a FCC-negotiated condition of the company’s merger with Time Warner Cable.

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