Hidden cable fees are about to go away

Ethan Wolff-Mann
Senior Writer

Hidden cable fees are going to be outlawed.

Pay-TV companies have commonly advertised low prices, but too often they jump their customers with hidden fees that were in fine print in a contract too long for most people to realistically read. 

Consumers may get a bit more transparency now.

The new spending bill passed with bipartisan support in the Senate includes provisions requiring pay-TV operators to disclose the total price to customers.

According to Consumer Reports, consumers pay an average of $450 a year in extra company-imposed charges from cable and internet service providers, which include router and modems — even if consumers choose to bring their own devices. The publication’s research also noted that cable providers take in around $28 billion from these fees per year.

President Trump is expected to sign the bill by Dec. 20.

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2019, file photo the symbol for Comcast appears on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York. Comcast Corp. reports financial earns on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Cable TV has traditionally topped annual lists of most-hated companies. Comcast, Charter and others have landed high on these surveys multiple times. Hidden fees were a large portion of that reason, according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) report on telecommunications.

While service always had “room for improvement,” streaming services actually stepped up and improved things, raising the bar significantly for consumer-friendliness. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have garnered high scores for satisfaction, and this has changed consumer expectations for incumbent cable companies — which includes hidden fees.

“For most of the top-rated providers, there are no hidden fees and canceling is easy and painless,” the ACSI report said. “They have also fundamentally changed buyer expectations.”

With hidden fees going away, this may be a $28 billion hit, but it could be good for these companies’ reputations.

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Ethan Wolff-Mann is a writer at Yahoo Finance focusing on consumer issues, personal finance, retail, airlines, and more. Follow him on Twitter @ewolffmann.

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