FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 10, 2014
Coalition Calls on Congress to Investigate Pay-TV Billing and Business Practices Hurting Consumers
The 'Negative Economic Impact of Pay-TV Fees and Billing Practices on The American Family Budget Highlights The Need for Further Congressional Inquiry'
Washington, D.C. – In joint letters to the respective U.S. Senate and House Commerce Committees, and their respective Subcommittees on Communications, a coalition of public interest groups, TVfreedom.org, Media Alliance and The Hispanic Institute, today called on congressional leadership to expand its current examination of the U.S. video marketplace to include an investigation of existing billing and business practices of the cable and satellite TV industry.
“Only congressional leadership and expertise can help loosen the cable and satellite TV operators’ bottleneck-grip on the marketplace and provide monetary relief to pay-TV customers across the country,” the coalition of public interest groups said.
In the letter, the coalition asks the respective congressional committees to take up an investigation as they begin the process to update the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and urged members to focus on pay-TV industry wide practices, such as erroneous overbilling, equipment rental fees, early termination fees, and inflated or unnecessary ‘extra’ charges as part of their inquiry.
In describing their concerns to Congress, the groups wrote, “the marketplace has failed to adequately address significant annual increases in consumers’ monthly pay-TV bills. As a result, consumer choice for video service across the country remains limited and family budgets must bear the heavy financial burden of ever-escalating monthly pay-TV bills.”
In addition to calling on Congress to require the pay-TV industry to take action to police its own behavior and correct billing errors, the groups urged the committees to examine ways that pay-TV operators can make consumers’ monthly bills easier to understand, and take steps to more clearly define the federal government’s role in video marketplace truth-in-billing practices.
Finally, the letter notes that reforms in pay-TV truth-in-billing practices would create an opportunity for Congress to task the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission with the joint responsibility of developing a nationwide initiative to heighten consumer awareness and understanding regarding pay-TV services and fees ‘commonly appearing’ on monthly bills. Such a public education and awareness campaign would better equip consumers with the resources they would need to successfully engage their cable or satellite TV service providers should they have questions about their monthly bills.
TVfreedom.org, is a coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, network television affiliate associations, multicast networks, manufacturers and other independent broadcaster-related organizations committed to helping protect consumer interests, ensure emergency and weather related programming access, promote the value of broadcast-TV programming, and preserve a fair and free video marketplace. In the coming weeks and months, the coalition will look to add to its charter membership and will work closely with consumer and community groups, as well as public safety and law enforcement organizations.