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Fees like these are why people utterly despise the cable industry

Cable vs Streaming

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 profile photo

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who has been contributing to BGR since 2015. His expertise in TV shows you probably don’t like is unmatched. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl.