Senators press FCC head on bogus equipment fees

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s U.S. senators joined four of their colleagues Wednesday in pressing Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler about companies charging consumers for equipment they do not use.

Consumers of Internet and TV service complain more about billing than another other problem, according to a statement from the office of Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden. More than 30 percent of consumer complaints in 2015 to the FCC were about Internet service billing and 38 percent were about TV service billing.

Wyden and fellow Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, both Democrats, joined Senators Al Franken, D-Minnesota, Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and presidential candidate Bernard Sanders, I-Vermont, in writing a letter to Wheeler about what the shady practice.

“We are troubled upon hearing complaints of consumers being charged the modem rental fee after they have returned the rented equipment to Comcast or being charged the rental fee having never rented a modem in the first place,” their letter states. “Not only are the majority of customers using automatic payment systems and may not personally authorize every erroneous charge, many consumers report having to call and remedy this problem throughout several billing cycles.”

The lawmakers asked if and how the FCC regulates erroneous fees, how many unauthorized charges the FCC is aware of, the number of consumer complaints about erroneous equipment fees and what — if anything — is the FCC doing to address such complaints.