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Cable service is available in most Massachusetts communities through one or more providers, and may be offered as a stand-alone service or as part of a bundled package. The term “bundled package” refers to a specially-priced combination of services that may include telephone service (wireless or landline), television (cable or satellite television), internet or a home security system. Bundled packages often include a contract agreement that will require you to maintain your services for a fixed period of time, usually 12-24 months.

The cost of cable service alone can be broken down into three main categories: (1) programming, promotions and pricing; (2) equipment and installation; and (3) taxes, fees and surcharges.

 

Taxes, Fees, and other Surcharges:Cable-TV-small

 

If you enter into a contract agreement when signing up for service, your cable provider will likely charge an early termination fee (ETF) if you cancel or downgrade a service before the end of the fixed contractual term.

  • Always ask about any ETFs that may be part of your contract agreement, including how the ETF is calculated. If you downgrade or eliminate service bought in a bundle, ask whether the cost for the remainder of the services will change.
  • If you purchase bundled services that are provided by different companies, make sure you know the contract terms for each service provider.  Be sure to clarify which service provider you need to contact in order to cancel service.
  • When canceling cable service, be sure to discuss how you can return all of the rented equipment to the service provider to avoid incurring additional charges.

Cable providers may also assess certain taxes, surcharges, and fees as part of a consumer’s monthly bill. Be sure to ask about them before signing a contract. Cable providers are allowed by law to assess certain taxes and they are permitted to pass on other charges to their customers. Some of these charges, such as franchise-related costs, differ in amount depending on where you live. Ask your sales representative about the taxes, fees, and surcharges specific to your city or town. These additional charges can be significant.

The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC) regulates the telecommunications and cable industries in Massachusetts. As part of its responsibilities, the DTC’s Consumer Division works to resolve disputes that arise between consumers and their telephone or cable service provider. The Division offers a series of outreach programs to help educate consumers about these industries, and empower them to make smart decisions when evaluating their needs for purchasing these services. For more information or for help with a complaint about your cable provider, contact the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable.

This is part three of a series. Read parts one and two.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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