Comcast customers stood ready to cheer this week, as the company infamous for some of the worst customer service in America finally got its comeuppance: "Comcast hit with FCC's biggest cable fine ever."
Wow -- take that, Comcast, for your rudeness, your Kafkaesque customer service calls, those cable installers who never show up, the inadequate coverage, and your $3,000 early termination fees! Hope you've learned your lesson!
But wait … hold that victory dance. Surely the "biggest cable fine ever" was more than the reported $2.3 million -- a decimal must have moved or a zero dropped. A $2.3 million fine doesn't even amount to a slap on the wrist for a company that raked in more than $19 billion last quarter alone. A $2.3 million fine is more like a gnat landing on its wrist. The "biggest fine ever" is dwarfed by the nearly $16 million Comcast funneled into lobbying the federal government last year.
FCC called out Comcast for charging customers for services and equipment they didn't request -- otherwise known as "cramming." In many cases, the FCC said, customers expressly told Comcast they didn't want add-on options, but were charged anyway -- then were forced to spend "significant time and energy to attempt to remove the unauthorized charges." According to a Senate committee report released in June, 40 percent of Comcast customers who reported billing problems could not resolve them on the first call.
Comcast, meanwhile, agreed to the fine but didn't admit guilt. The issues were due to "isolated errors or customer confusion," the company said in its statement.
The only customer confusion is in understanding how Comcast skated with such an inconsequential penalty.
How inconsequential is the "biggest cable fine ever" compared to other penalties levied for cramming? AT&T was fined a whopping $105 million for charging mobile customers for third-party subscriptions or services they never ordered. Sprint and Verizon were hit with a collective $158 million in fines over their mobile cramming practices. T-Mobile was slammed with $22.5 million in fines and at least $67.5 million in direct refunds to consumers for cramming its mobile bills, then ignoring complaints and requests for refunds.
I guess mobile cramming stands in a category head and shoulders above cable cramming. Go figure.
Comcast's cramming fine even pales in comparison to the nearly $26 million penalty the company agreed to pay California for improperly disposing of electronic equipment and customer records, and the $33.4 million it paid for publishing in its online directory the details of California customers who had signed up for unlisted service.
Heck, the U.S. government fined a biotech company $3.5 million for mistreating goats.
So, sorry Comcast customers, apparently no one feels your pain. Not only do you rate below goats, you won't even benefit from that $2.3 million fine; the money will go to the federal government.