Sometimes it isn’t enough for consumers to just read the fine print. Sometimes a needle-in-a-haystack search is required just to find the right fine print to read.
To wit: Our blog item from last week on high-speed Internet providers increasingly imposing early termination penalties to keep their customers from straying away for a better deal somewhere else.
We went to great lengths to contact the country’s top high-speed Internet providers and ask them what we believed was a fairly straightforward question: Do you impose early termination penalties on your high-speed Internet customers?
Several providers — including cable giant Comcast — assured us that they did not impose early termination fees, which we reported as part of our blog item.
So imagine our surprise when someone sent us a copy of a recent Comcast memo to a county official in Virginia about a looming rate increase, which, way down at the end, in a footnote, contained the following:
“Two year term agreement required. $150 early termination fee applies if any service is cancelled or downgraded during the 2 year period.”
We called Comcast and talked to spokesperson Jenni Moyer, the same person who had told us last week the company didn’t impose early termination fees.
She explained the early termination fee referred to in the memo only applies to customers signing up for Comcast’s so-called “Triple Play,” which is a bundle of phone, Internet and cable television service.
She then said that while certain local Comcast systems (in this case the Spotsylvania County in Virginia) do impose the early termination fees on their Triple Play bundles, the company generally sells its services on a month-by-month basis — with no long-term contract requirements or early termination penalties.
Indeed, that is what we found when we checked the “Terms and Conditions” section on Comcast’s main web site. You can read them for yourself here.
Moyers says Comcast is completely up front with customers about the early termination penalties.
“The customer knows going in what the situation is,” said Moyer. “It’s all spelled out in the contract.”
Yup. In the case of the memo to Spotsylvania County memo, it is spelled out at the bottom of page five of the six page document, in type so small that it is nearly unreadable.
And before actually signing up, we suggest you demand a complete contract from your local system and you read all the fine print, including the footnotes at the end.
Are you as frustrated? Do something about it! Tell the FCC to stop broadband companies from charging early termination fees!