Attorneys general to probe cable TV price increases

Attorneys general in 23 states have banded together to investigate whether recent cable TV price increases are legal.

“We had hoped the congressional Cable Act would cure a lot of the problems, but the cable industry is very creative,” Florida Asst. Attorney General Jack Norris said Thursday.

Under the new law, basic cable TV rates are regulated by the local communities and expanded service is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

But the law also gives state authorities the power to intervene.

Norris said a steering committee comprising Wisconsin, Florida, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Oregon is moving quickly to determine courses of action in the various states.

He said he couldn’t release the names of the other 18 states without specific permission, but the Washington Post reported Thursday that California, Virginia and New York are involved in the investigation.

Florida Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth tried a case against “negative option billing” a year and a half ago, said Norris, and wants fast action against any violations of the new rules.

Negative option pricing refers to charging for particular cable services unless the customer specifically states that he or she does not want the service.

In some cases, extra channels are added unless a customer asks that they be removed. One company was charging customers for an “insurance policy” that would cover the cost of any repairs to inside wiring in the home. To avoid the charge, customers had to specify they didn’t want the insurance.

Meanwhile, the FCC announced that it is investigating 16 cable operators in 10 states after receiving specific complaints by mayors and other local officials.

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