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New law aims to protect cable, satellite TV customers

Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 goes into effect June 20, 2020

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Look closely at your cable or satellite TV bill and you might be surprised to find fees you never heard of: Broadcast TV fee, regional sports fee, set-top box or rental fees and many more.

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

“These fees are hidden. Consumers are confused by them. Most importantly they’re getting worse and they’re expensive,” explained Consumer Reports senior counsel Jonathan Schwantes.

The good news, however, relief is on the way from Washington. Congress passed the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019, which was signed into law by the President last month, that does three basic things.

No. 1: It requires cable and Satellite TV 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.

No. 2: 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.

No. 3: You no longer will have to pay for equipment that the provider gives you that you don’t use, like a wi-fi router for example.

The law is scheduled to take effect on June 20.

Cutting the cord

If you want to get rid of cable or satellite TV fees altogether, you can cut the cord. Consumer Reports says a good quality digital antenna costs around $35 and can tune in your local TV stations -- including Channel 4 -- for free. You’ll need to have your TV scan for local broadcast channels. If you haven’t done this since Jan. 16, you’ll need to rescan. (Click here for complete instructions.)

Streaming services on your smart TV or streaming device might charge a monthly subscription fee, but that’s it. If you’re trying to figure out which streaming service to pick, Consumer Reports recommends checking with your family to find out which shows no one can live without. Then, see which services provide those shows at the lowest cost. For example, Consumer Reports says websites like ReelGood.com can help you find out where many shows and movies are available for streaming.

Consumer Reports offers additional advice on video streaming services.


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