Last year, a new law, the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 (“TVPA”), was enacted, requiring Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (“MVPDs”) and providers of fixed broadband services to disclose all charges that a consumer will have to pay before he or she signs up for service. The statute requires compliance by June 20, 2020, but the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has exercised its authority to grant a six-month extension.
MVPD and fixed broadband bills are known for being loaded with charges, fees, and taxes of many kinds, some originated by the provider and some imposed by governmental entities. Consumers don’t expect these charges, which are not insignificant in amount, when they sign up for a seemingly low promotional monthly fee. The TVPA requires covered service providers to give new customers a breakdown of all components of the actual bill they will receive before the customer signs a contract. Customers must also be permitted to cancel their contract without penalty for 24 hours after they agree to buy.
The TVPA authorizes the FCC to extend the June 20 compliance deadline. The FCC has issued an Order exercising that authority, so that service providers do not have to devote resources to compliance when they need to keep their networks up and running and meet other consumer needs with reduced staffs during the coronavirus emergency.
The FCC has the authority to grant only one six-month extension; so come December 20, the new “truth in billing” requirement will go into effect, and the “fine print” aspects of MVPD and broadband bills should become easier for consumers to decipher and understand.