Comcast, the dominant cable provider in Massachusetts, with about 2 million customers, is opening its wallet a wee bit — a very wee bit — to make up for overcharging customers during the first few months of the pandemic.
“Good news — you’ll see an adjustment on your bill this month,” Comcast blasted out in e-mails to customers on Monday.
The “adjustment” is supposed to compensate those who paid $8.75 monthly for broadcasts of major league sports at a time when those leagues had suspended play due to the coronavirus.
No games, no broadcasts, no fees?
Comcast in its recent e-mail acknowledges it put sports broadcasting “on hold” from April through June. (Some games in March and July also went on hold, but let’s concentrate on the three-month period Comcast cited in its e-mail.)
Three months times $8.75 is $26.25 — that’s what I expected and that’s what I advocated for in a column on Comcast published in May.
But when I checked my Comcast account this week, what I found was a paltry $4.55 credit.
That’s a 17 percent refund for three months of sports blackout, not the 100 percent I think consumers deserve. (Like many others in Massachusetts, I live in a community with only one option for cable.)
In its e-mail, Comcast made it sound as if it was limited in what it could do for its customers by the regional sports networks, like NESN and NBC Sports Boston, which produce the programming that Comcast furnishes to its customers.
“This adjustment reflects what has been committed to us by the regional sports networks in your area to date,” the e-mail said.
That seems like passing the buck. I don’t want to hear about how well — or badly — Comcast did in its negotiations with its regional sports networks, or any of its myriad other vendors and suppliers. I have no contractual relationship with NESN or NBC Sports Boston. But I do have one with Comcast. And I want Comcast to do right by me, without excuses.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on all of us. Business losses have piled up. Somebody has to take those losses. And I think it should be the businesses. Instead, Comcast wants consumers to bear the brunt of the losses. That’s not fair.
Actually, the refund Comcast is crediting its customers with is based on scratched Major League Baseball games only. Major League Baseball normally begins its season in the first week of April, but no games were played this year until late July. We get $4.55 for four months of lost games?
The Comcast rep I spoke with said the company has obtained no refund for missed professional basketball and hockey games because those leagues were “very close to completing their seasons” when the suspensions occurred. Well, I know the Boston Celtics lopped off 18 regular season games. Customers don’t deserve a refund for those games?
I really don’t want to parse the business relationships between Comcast, regional sport networks, and major league sports. I’m the consumer. I paid Comcast for more than three months of broadcasts. It did not deliver them. If Comcast thinks the regional sports networks or major league sports are to blame, fine, let it go after them. Don’t just saddle me with the loss, or most of it, and move on.
And remember, all of this is happening against the backdrop of extreme financial stress for countless Comcast customers. (Comcast had $3 billion in profits in the second quarter of this year.)
Yes, I know some regional sports networks substituted “classic games” for live games, but that’s not what customers signed up for. That was filler.
Comcast says it will continue to work to recover additional funds “where possible.” But I say don’t count on it. The company representative I spoke with had no information about any ongoing negotiations. I’m pretty sure $4.55 is all we are getting, short of legal action.
The next-largest cable provider in Massachusetts is Verizon, with close to 20 percent of the market. As of May, it was still charging an $8.89 monthly regional sports fee. I contacted Verizon on Monday about a refund, but got no answer.
Anne Pride of Falmouth first contacted me in May to express outrage at being charged an $8.75 monthly regional sports fee without getting broadcast games. I wrote a column that quoted her exhorting Comcast to “do the right thing.”
Yeah, Comcast. Give us $26.25, not $4.55.