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Shouldn't Bogus Fees Be Part Of FCC's 'Transparency' Push?
As long as we're looking at truth in advertising...
by Karl Bode 12:20PM Friday Jan 22 2010
If nothing else, it's pretty clear that both the FCC's national broadband plan and their network neutrality rules are going to focus heavily on transparency -- as in, making sure the consumer knows precisely what kind of connection they're buying. One of the agency's workshops this week focused specifically on this issue, and the FCC's "sixth network neutrality principle" is transparency. At the moment, "transparency" to the FCC means the consumer getting accurate speed and network management information about their connection:
quote:
Commissioner Mignon Clyburn asked whether service providers are providing consumers with services and plans most beneficial to them. She was not convinced that consumers as well as content and application developers receive the information they need. She brought up concerns of actual speeds being a fraction of advertised speeds and service providers not disclosing when they block IT traffic.
But what remains untouched by the FCC so far is the ISPs' use of "unfees" or various other below the line charges that used to covertly glean additional revenue from customers. Via the use of these fees, bills are jacked up and rate hikes are imposed while the advertised price remains the same. By using "official" sounding names (like regulatory recovery fees), carriers also get the luxury of pretending it's all Uncle Sam's fault. It's false advertising. It's in every industry.

In the better part of a decade that our users have been complaining about such practices, we've seen a number of politicians pick up on the fee issue as a pet project. However, those efforts are quickly forgotten. While Attorneys General have cracked down on wireless carriers for everything from pretending that capped service is unlimited to sneaky contract extensions and ETFs, the use of bogus fees to jack up the advertised price continues to be perfectly acceptable.

If the FCC's going to talk so much about transparency, shouldn't the litany of billing tricks used by wireless and terrestrial (VoIP included) carriers at least be part of the conversation?

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MSauk
MSauk
Premium
join:2002-01-17
Sandy, UT

1 edit

Without a doubt

The advertised price should include all fees and taxes. I know it would help me make a better, more informed decisions.
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jjoshua
Premium
join:2001-06-01
Scotch Plains, NJ
kudos:3

Re: Without a doubt

You can't even get this information if you ask. You have to wait for your bill to arrive until you see what you're really paying.

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

Re: Without a doubt

said by jjoshua:

You can't even get this information if you ask. You have to wait for your bill to arrive until you see what you're really paying.
Sprint does supply these estimates of fees added on to the advertised rates:
»nextelonline.nextel.com/en/store···up.shtml
Rates & Fees: Monthly charges exclude taxes, Sprint Surcharges [incl. USF charge of up to 14.10% (varies quarterly), Administrative Charge (up to $1.99/line/mo.), Regulatory Charge ($0.40/line/mo.) & state/local fees by area]. Sprint Surcharges are not taxes or gov't-required charges and are subject to change. Sprint chooses to collect Washington State B&O Fee of 0.471% of your monthly billed charges to recover its costs. Details: sprint.com/taxesandfees.
This gets you in the ballpark and when I signed up for Sprint this past summer, they gave me the fees Added on when I asked them.

USF fees constantly change and state & local sales taxes and excise taxes vary by location.
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cableties
Premium
join:2005-01-27
And that bill is usually for calls/service from the previous month up to, but including the next month.
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openbox9
Premium
join:2004-01-26
Germany
kudos:2
I've not had that problem. Each time I've asked what my total bill will be, I've been given the numbers, at least within a percentage point or two.

sholling
Premium
join:2002-02-13
Hemet, CA
kudos:1
Putting a stop to blatant false advertising and fraud should be job-1 at the FTC.

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

Re: Without a doubt

said by sholling:

Putting a stop to blatant false advertising and fraud should be job-1 at the FTC.
The better question is....why do we need to get in their face to have this be the #1 priority?

Why in god's name has this not already been taken care of?

It is mind-boggling to me

FFH
Premium
join:2002-03-03
Tavistock NJ
kudos:5

1 recommendation

Adertising practices is the FTC's responsibility

Why would the FCC get involved in the regulation of advertisements and billing practices? They can barely manage the technical aspects under their legislatively mandated responsibilities. They should leave advertising issues in the FTC where they belong and who has the legal authority to haul abusers in to court.

funchords
Hello
Premium,MVM
join:2001-03-11
Yarmouth Port, MA
kudos:6

Re: Adertising practices is the FTC's responsibility

said by FFH:

They should leave advertising issues in the FTC where they belong and who has the legal authority to haul abusers in to court.
That position could be part of an either/or recommendation. The FCC is absolutely interested in transparency and delivery of the broadband offering.

I can't imagine the FTC getting involved in wireline telephone service billing issues. So why treat broadband differently? (Except that the FCC has had no great luck with either.)
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Karl Bode
News Guy
join:2000-03-02
kudos:39

1 recommendation

Re: Adertising practices is the FTC's responsibility

That position could be part of an either/or recommendation. The FCC is absolutely interested in transparency and delivery of the broadband offering.
If they're so concerned with accuracy is speed and connection quality, extending that desire for transparency and truth in advertising to billing only makes sense...Since we're talking about billions in junk charges and lost revenue, it won't happen. Would be too disruptive to the people in charge (If I recall correctly, their names are "AT&T" and "Verizon").

jb50

@exxonmobil.com

FCC = Facade for Company Control

I bet you are right, they will never do anything to hurt their booty buddies.

Matt3
All noise, no signal.
Premium
join:2003-07-20
Jamestown, NC
kudos:12

Re: FCC = Facade for Company Control

said by jb50 :

I bet you are right, they will never do anything to hurt their booty buddies.
Says Mr. Anon from Exxon Mobile.

While I would like to see unfees tackled, Ms. Clyburn has pleasantly surprised me. So far, she is willing to ask, what up until now, should have been routine questions. If she can spearhead at least getting providers to correct "up-to" and "best effort" advertising while simultaneously disclosing how they manage and shape traffic, that's a damn good start.

Next up? Promoting a competitive infrastructure. (Yeah, right.)
Sammer

join:2005-12-22
Canonsburg, PA
said by FFH:

Why would the FCC get involved in the regulation of advertisements and billing practices?
Actually the FCC is the part of the federal government that allowed (promoted?) these below the line un-fees in the first place. Saying that it's the responsibility of the FTC is ignorant since the FCC has been involved in the regulation of these very billing practices for some time now.
jus10

join:2009-08-04
Sterling, VA

Yes.

Naturally. I'm not sure what else there is to say.

Clearly away much of the ambiguity away from Cell Phones, ISPs, etc, etc would be much appreciated. What exactly am I getting and what exactly am I going to be charged for it.

You'd think that'd be standard.
iansltx

join:2007-02-19
Austin, TX
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable
·Verizon Online DSL
·Comcast

Absolutely agreed

MetroPCS and some prepaid providers (Boost Mobile) are using this as a competitive differentiation but really all taxes and fees for internet and cellular service should be noted up front.

For example, my current cellular plan has about $6 in taxes and fees on top of the $30 that I pay plus $7 for insurance. Logically, my plan should then be $36 per month, not $30 plus taxes and fees.

On my internet things are more clear-cut. The only fee is for my modem, $5 per month at this point, and the only tax is sales tax on modem rental, about 40 cents per month. I'm still not terribly enthused about the rental fee, but at least it's straightforwarad.

What do you guys see on your cable or DSL bills for internet other than the advertised price of the service?
BB_Hunter

join:2008-05-16

1 edit

Re: Absolutely agreed

said by iansltx:

MetroPCS and some prepaid providers (Boost Mobile) are using this as a competitive differentiation but really all taxes and fees for internet and cellular service should be noted up front.

For example, my current cellular plan has about $6 in taxes and fees on top of the $30 that I pay plus $7 for insurance. Logically, my plan should then be $36 per month, not $30 plus taxes and fees.

On my internet things are more clear-cut. The only fee is for my modem, $5 per month at this point, and the only tax is sales tax on modem rental, about 40 cents per month. I'm still not terribly enthused about the rental fee, but at least it's straightforwarad.

What do you guys see on your cable or DSL bills for internet other than the advertised price of the service?
I do agree with you that it's bogus. A while back I had called Atlantic Broadband for my Grandparents because they were sick of Verizon and the rate hikes.

Atlantic Broadband advertised a plan at $29.95 a month. After calling they informed me they would have to get a different modem to use the service. I had no problem with this and asked what the price was for the modem. This modem couldn't be bought only rented for $5 per month. I even asked how could you advertise it at $29.95 a month when requiring a $5 modem fee without any option to purchase the modem. I could see advertising it at $29.95 a month if you could buy the modem but when you can't it makes absolutely no sense to advertise a price that isn't achievable before taxes.
azstu

join:2007-05-13
Tucson, AZ
Reviews:
·Comcast

The Biggest Scam of all is forced bundling

The biggest illegal practice still going on today is the "buy comcast HSI for 42 bucks".. !! a deliberate lie.

You need to buy at least comcast basic cable (20 bucks) to get it.. illegal..

if you don't its ~58 bucks..

this needs to be addressed by the FCC.

A nice lawsuit quoting FTC practices and pulling in the FTC should be the first action.
BB_Hunter

join:2008-05-16

Re: The Biggest Scam of all is forced bundling

It's not forced when you have the option to buy it separately for the $58 you stated. Durrr.....

Bill Neilson
Premium
join:2009-07-08
Arlington, VA

Souns great but I have yet to ever see

transparency in this area the last 10-15 years

Calling for it is great but doing it is 99% of the battle