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Fees like these are why people utterly despise the cable industry

Published Oct 7th, 2019 10:05PM EDT
Cable vs Streaming
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In case you need another reason to hate your cable TV provider and more of a push to seriously consider cutting the cord and going all-in on streaming, Consumer Reports is out with the results of a new study that will make you want to tear your hair out.

After studying several hundred consumer cable bills originating from 13 leading cable TV providers, the publication found that a full one-fourth of those bills are made up of fees with seemingly no purpose other than padding the cable companies’ bottom line.

The analysis shows that the industry’s M.O. tends to be to advertise one price and then to sneakily fatten up each monthly bill with an inscrutable array of fees — such that the industry, according to CR, generates about $450 per year per consumer in fees alone.

“The CR survey found telecommunications providers (which includes cable companies) are the worst offender when it comes to charging unexpected or hidden fees,” CR’s report about the survey findings reads. “What a cable company advertises to a consumer as a monthly price for services, and what the consumer actually ends up paying, can be dramatically different.”

How different? Overall, the study looked at 787 cable bills. What it found was that the average user paid a little more than $156 a month for cable TV. However, once the extra fees are taken into account, the customer is actually paying closer to $218 a month — a more than $60/month difference, which means nearly 25% of the bill is attributable to fees and myriad charges.

And here’s why this is so insidious. In a blog post about the findings, Consumer Reports senior policy counsel Jonathan Schwantes explained the system is rigged in this manner to keep consumers essentially in the dark from the outset about the full cost of what they’re paying for. A strategy that’s getting more and more desperate as consumers continue to embrace cord-cutting thanks to services like Netflix.

“With the proliferation of add-on fees, it’s nearly impossible for consumers to find out the full cost of a cable package before they get locked into a contract — and cable companies count on this,” Schwantes writes. “These confusing, often misleadingly named charges continue to drive up consumer bills, even if you lock in a promotional rate.”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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