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ESHOO, MARKEY INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO CRACK DOWN ON SURPRISE TELEPHONE, CABLE, AND INTERNET FEES

February 14th, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Truth-In-Billing, Remedies, and User Empowerment over Fees (‘TRUE Fees’) Act, legislation that requires phone, cable and Internet providers to include all charges in the prices they advertise for services. The legislation also provides remedies for consumers when they have been wrongfully charged.

“Customers deserve to know exactly what they’re paying for in their monthly cable and Internet service bills. All too often they’re sold a service for one price, only to be blindsided by higher bills at the end of the month from tacked on ‘service’ or ‘administrative’ fees,” Rep. Eshoo said. “These fees add up to hundreds of millions of dollars each year for cable and Internet providers at the expense of consumers who have little to no option than to pay up. The TRUE Fees Act is commonsense legislation that requires companies to be transparent about their prices and empowers consumers to take action if they’ve been taken for a ride.”

“For too long customers have been surprised each month to find that their cable, phone and internet bills are much higher than the advertised price. The TRUE Fees Act would put an end to these advertising practices that only confuse consumers about the true costs. Consumers also should not be suddenly saddled with higher prices, and this bill not only requires providers to give consumers notice about any price increase but also to allow consumers to then end a contract without incurring a costly termination fee,” Senator Edward J. Markey said. “If phone, cable and internet companies won’t be fully transparent with consumers, then Congress should act. I thank Congresswoman Eshoo for her leadership on the TRUE Fees Act, and look forward to working with all of my colleagues as this legislation moves forward.”

“Consumers deserve a fair shake when it comes to understanding the costs of the services they sign up for.  So kudos to Rep. Eshoo and Sen. Markey for their work to make bills simpler and keep consumers better informed.” – FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel

“When consumers sign up for phone, cable, or internet access service, they should know with certainty then and there what they are expected to pay each month.  Unfortunately, these days, surprise bills and confusing fees are not uncommon.  I applaud Sen. Markey and Rep. Eshoo for fighting for greater transparency in bills and advertising.” – FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

“Congresswoman Eshoo and Senator Markey’s TRUE Fees Act helps protect consumer budgets from surprise hidden or misleading fees on their phone, cable, and internet bills,” said Olivia Wein, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. “Low-income consumers face enough challenges in paying for essential communications services. Surprise fees and confusing billing practices only make it that much harder on fragile family budgets,” Wein noted.

“This legislation is simple, straightforward, and effective. The TRUE Fees Act would address the out-of-control fee problem in the telecommunications marketplace and deliver much-needed transparency for cable and internet providers’ unnecessarily-complicated billing practices,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports. “We’ve heard from more than 115,000 consumers who’ve had enough of cable and internet providers’ ever increasing bills riddled with confusing, mandatory fees buried in the fine print. We thank Senator Markey and Representative Eshoo for their leadership to address this growing fee problem and ensure consumer budgets aren’t busted by unexpected fees. We urge their colleagues in Congress to support and move this bill forward.”

“Consumers should be able to see and compare the real cost of communications services, not be fooled by hidden fees,” said Susan Grant. Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy, Consumer Federation of America. “Congresswoman Eshoo and Senator Markey have taken an important step toward this goal by introducing the TRUE Fees Act.”

“Below-the-line fees are one of the most persistent and universal frustrations with communications services,” said John Bergmayer, Senior Counsel at Public Knowledge. “This bill is a great way to address them. With this bill, Rep. Eshoo and Sen. Markey are empowering consumers to make smarter choices by giving subscribers the information they need to decide what service to buy.”

Background

The TRUE Fees Act requires phone, cable, and internet providers to include fees, charges, and surcharges in the prices they advertise for service; allows customers to end their contract without early termination fees if their provider increases prices; prevents hikes on equipment fees unless providers improve equipment; and prohibits forced arbitration clauses for wrongful billing errors.

The House Legislation is co-sponsored Reps. Mark Takano, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tim Ryan, Earl Blumenauer, Jamie Raskin, Joe Courtney, Donald S. Beyer, Jr., Janice D. Schakowsky, and Mike Thompson.

The Senate legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.).

The TRUE Fees Act has been endorsed by the National Consumer Law Center, on behalf of its low-income clients; Consumer Reports; Consumer Federation of America; and Public Knowledge.

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

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