Truth-in-Billing Rules Apply to Video, Equipment Charges Apply to Video and Fixed Broadband Providers
Video providers should be preparing now to comply with new Truth-in-Billing requirements that go into effect December 20, 2020. The requirements implement the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (TVPA) and will impact the information cable operators provide to new customers at the point of sale, after the sale, and to all video customers who receive electronic bills. The rules also prohibit video and fixed broadband providers from charging for equipment they have not supplied to the customer.
Video providers should take the necessary steps now to develop and test how the breakdown of all video charges will be extracted from billing systems and disclosed by customer service representatives at the point of sale and in writing immediately after the sale. The new requirements are outlined below.
TRANSPARENCY: Before entering into a contract with a customer for video service, the following information must be provided to the prospective customer (either by phone, in person, online or other “reasonable” means):
- The total monthly charge for the service, whether a stand-alone service or as part of a bundled service, explicitly noting the amount of any applicable promotional discount reflected, and when that discount will expire. Total monthly charges must include:
- Related administrative fees, equipment fees, or other charges;
- A good faith estimate of any tax, fee, or charge imposed by the federal government or a state or local government, whether imposed on the provider or imposed on the consumer but collected by the provider (such as franchise fees);
- A good faith estimate of any fee or charge that recovers any other assessment imposed on the provider by the federal government (such as recovery of FCC cable regulatory fees) or a state or local government.
FORMAL NOTICE: Within 24 hours of entering into a contract with the subscriber, the video provider must provide a copy of all the information described above to the subscriber. This can be done by email, online link, or other “reasonably comparable” means.
CUSTOMER’S RIGHT TO CANCEL: During a 24-hour period following receipt of the formal notice, the customer must be allowed to cancel the contract without early cancellation fees or other disconnection fees or penalties.
E-BILLING: If the video provider provides the bill in electronic format, the bill must include:
- An itemized statement with the breakdown of the total amount charged for video services and all related taxes, administrative fees, equipment fees, or other charges;
- Termination date of the contract; and
- Termination date of any applicable promotional discount.
ACCURATE EQUIPMENT CHARGES: A video provider or provider of fixed broadband internet access service may not charge a customer for:
- Using equipment provided by the customer; or
- Renting or leasing equipment that the provider has not provided to the customer; or
- Equipment that the customer has returned.
Note that the equipment for this item includes any equipment for video or broadband internet access service (such as a router).