In the last five years, more than 16,000 people have filed formal complaints with the Federal Communications Commission against Comcast and Time Warner Cable, alleging deceptive advertising and billing practices, shoddy customer service, and poor cable or internet service, according to new documents obtained by Muckrock.
In fact, there have been so many complaints that the FCC deemed it infeasible to release all of them: A Freedom of Information Act request from the investigative outfit was initially rejected because of the sheer number of complaints it had received.
"A preliminary search of our database has revealed more than 16,000 responsive documents," an FCC official wrote. "In order for us to process your request in an efficient and expeditious manner it is necessary for you to clarify the scope of your request and the amount you are willing to spend."
There have been so many complaints that the FCC deemed it infeasible to release all of them.
Muckrock narrowed it down, and the agency released the last 50 billing, privacy, and service complaints (called 2000B) and the last 50 deceptive or unlawful advertising (2000A) complaints from each company. All four sets of complaints only date from a few select days in September or August, suggesting that the FCC is getting these complaints at an incredible rate.
It's worth noting that filing either a 2000A or 2000B complaint is markedly more laborious than filing a comment with the FCC regarding net neutrality or the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger. Nonetheless, several of the complaints obtained by Muckrock do ask the FCC to reject the merger (these are a small minority of the complaints).
More commonly, you'll see the types of complaints that have popped up time and time again over the last few months as the news media covers them more often: people complaining about not receiving the internet speeds they've paid for, bait-and-switch billing tactics, service disruptions, long customer service waits, and the like.
The despair and general themes of the complaints are quite familiar. Obviously it's impossible to verify many of these claims (names were removed in the Muckrock documents), but I've reproduced a few of them here for you to peruse. Letters have been edited for length and clarity.
"Customer Service Representative added cable television service to my account when I called about a problem connecting to the high speed internet. I did not want the extra service or equipment … I believe their tactics were deceptive and intended to sell a service I did not want and to delay and obfuscate my attempts to rectify the problem." -Bridgeville, PA: 9/2/2014
"I am paying for Comcast's 'Blast' package internet service which means I should be receiving 105 MBps. The speed test that Comcast recommends I use tells me my download speed is 73.56 Mbps. A third party speed test reveals my download speed is actually 45.88 Mbps." - Charlottesville, VA 9/2/2014
"Comcast refuses to honor its advertised online offering 'Starter Sure Price Double Play' and instead uses classic bait and switch tactics to coerce customers to sign up for a two year contract offering … A Comcast rep refused to honor this package but will gladly offer a similarly priced, yet inferior package that requires a 24-month contract." Evergreen, Colorado, 9/3/2014
"I have been being charged by Comcast for channels that I don't receive for 12 consecutive months." - DeKalb, Il 9/4/2014
"Time Warner refuses to provide internet service due to lack of existing cable line leading to our house. To extend the cable for 1,500 feet, the company is requiring payment of $6,500. What is the legal basis for the company's position?" Accord, NY 9/10/2014
"TWC offered a free Dell PC in an ad. There are no lines or text between the only plan on the ad and the Dell reward. The fine print doesn't clear up this misinterpretation. TWC confirmed on the phone that by signing up for the TriplePlay plan promoted in the ad we would 'definitely get' the Dell. 30 days later I am told we're NOT eligible for the Dell." -Corning, NY 8/11/2014
I called Time Warner to set up service at a new address and one week later I canceled the appointment. I was told that I would get my money back in 48 hours but that never happened. I have called everyday and now I'm being told I have to wait 4 to 8 weeks for my money to be mailed to me. - Acton, Calif. 8/18/2014
The FCC is still deliberating Time Warner and Comcast's merger proposal, which would create the country's largest cable and internet conglomerate by far.