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Companies Tell CPUC Their Fees Don't Mislead

Telecom companies defended line-item fees on bills against consumer group criticism in reply comments last week at the California Public Utilities Commission (docket R.21-03-002). The Utility Reform Network in opening comments earlier this month questioned various provider fees, claiming they…

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were discretionary (see 2304060038). AT&T replied Thursday that its charges are cost-based and clearly disclosed. There is no evidence that consumers mistake “provider charges and fees labeled as ‘regulatory’ or ‘administrative’ … as government fees or government impositions,” said Charter Communications. Comcast said “the fees and surcharges TURN identifies are appropriate and transparent to customers.” The California Broadband & Video Association urged the CPUC not to consider “TURN’s inaccurate statements describing providers’ non-telephone service charges and fees as deceptive or misleading.” Frontier Communications said consumer groups’ recommendations to “broadly prohibit provider-imposed charges other than those required by governmental entities … rely significantly on anecdotal evidence and hearsay from complaint allegations.” However, the CPUC’s independent Public Advocates Office urged the agency to reject companies’ arguments that they present consumers with enough information to understand bills. “Communications-related fees should be clearly disclosed to the customer with specific fee amounts, the purpose of the fee, and whether the fee is government mandated or provider-imposed disclosed to the customer in advertisements and bills at all stages of the initial purchase and over the life of the service contract,” PAO said: Other fees “should have clear disclosure and opt in/out procedures."