Consumer Reports: Relief from hidden cable bill fees

When was the last time you looked closely at your cable TV bill? If it's been a while, chances are you're paying more than when you signed up for service.

As Consumer Reports reveals, the price hike could be due to a slew of confusing, costly fees that quickly add up. But there might be help on the horizon.

How much do you pay your cable company? Look closely at your cable bill and you might be surprised to find fees you never heard of, driving up the cost: Broadcast TV fee, regional sports fee, set-top box or rental fees, and many more.

Add it all up and according to a Consumer Reports report, the average cable subscriber pays nearly $450 in customer-imposed fees every year.

"These fees are hidden," said Jonathan Schwantes of Consumer Reports. "Consumers are confused by them. Most importantly they're getting worse and they're expensive."

So, how can you cut those pesky fees? If you guessed cutting the cable TV cord, you're right. A good quality digital antenna costs around $35 and can tune in local TV stations for free.

Streaming services on your smart TV or streaming device might charge a monthly subscription fee, but that's it. And relief might be on the way from Washington.

"Congress passed a law, last December, that does three basic things," Schwantes said. "Number one, it requires cable companies to disclose at the point of sale, meaning right when you're going to sign up for service of what your total overall price is going to be, including all fees, taxes. Number two, if you don't like it, you have 24 hours to change your mind and cancel, without any penalty you can get out of that deal. And number three, you no longer will have to pay for equipment that the cable company gives you, like a Wi-Fi router, even if you don't use that router, you no longer have to pay for it."

The bill will take effect later this year and if you're thinking of cutting the cord but worried about not being able to watch your favorite news team here at ABC7, Consumer Reports has some buying advice for digital TV antennas.

For more information, visit advocacy.consumerreports.org/research/2019-cable-fee-report/ and advocacy.consumerreports.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/CR-Cable-Bill-Report-2019.pdf.

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