FCC says “too bad” to ISPs complaining that listing every fee is too hard

FCC says “too bad” to ISPs complaining that listing every fee is too hard

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The Federal Communications Commission yesterday rejected requests to eliminate an upcoming requirement that Internet service providers list all of their monthly fees.

Five major trade groups representing US broadband providers petitioned the FCC in January to scrap the requirement before it takes effect. In June, Comcast told the FCC that the listing-every-fee rule “impose[s] significant administrative burdens and unnecessary complexity in complying with the broadband label requirements.”

The five trade groups kept up the pressure earlier this month in a meeting with FCC officials and in a filing that complained that listing every fee is too hard. The FCC refused to bend, announcing yesterday that the rules will take effect without major changes.

“Every consumer needs transparent information when making decisions about what Internet service offering makes the most sense for their family or household. No one wants to be hit with charges they didn’t ask for or they did not expect,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

Yesterday’s order “largely affirms the rules… while making some revisions and clarifications such as modifying provider record-keeping requirements when directing consumers to a label on an alternative sales channel and confirming that providers may state ‘taxes included’ when their price already incorporates taxes,” the FCC said.

ISPs don’t want to list all fees

Comcast and other ISPs objected to a requirement that ISPs “list all recurring monthly fees” including “all charges that providers impose at their discretion, i.e., charges not mandated by a government.” They complained that the rule will force them “to display the pass-through of fees imposed by federal, state, or local government agencies on the consumer broadband label.”

As we’ve previously written, ISPs could simplify billing and comply with the new broadband-labeling rules by including all costs in their advertised rates. That would give potential customers a clearer idea of how much they have to pay each month and save ISPs the trouble of listing every charge that they currently choose to break out separately.

Rejecting the broadband industry’s request, the FCC order yesterday said:

[W]e affirm our requirement that providers display all monthly fees with respect to broadband service on the label to provide consumers with clear and accurate information about the cost of their broadband service. We thus decline providers’ request that they not disclose those fees or that they instead display an “up to” price for certain fees they choose to pass through to consumers.

Specifically, “providers must itemize the fees they add to base monthly prices, including fees related to government programs they choose to ‘pass through’ to consumers, such as fees related to universal service or regulatory fees,” the FCC said.

The FCC was ordered by Congress to implement broadband-label rules. The FCC is requiring ISPs to display the labels to consumers at the point of sale and include information such as the monthly price, additional fees, introductory rates, data caps, charges for data overages, and performance metrics. The FCC rules aren’t in force yet because they are subject to a federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review under the US Paperwork Reduction Act.

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Jon Brodkin