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FCC Sets Customer Service Rules for Cable TV

March 12, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Better service for cable customers is at the heart of new Federal Communications Commission rules.

New requirements include a rule that customer calls be answered within 30 seconds and that customers be allowed to buy premium channels such as HBO or Showtime without purchasing tiers of service beyond the lowest price package.

The rules are effective July 1 under a law bringing cable television back under federal control. The FCC, which met Thursday, is phasing in the rules as required by Congress.

Customer service standards cable companies must follow include:

-Operating a local, toll-free or collect call telephone access line 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Calls must be answered within 30 seconds and a caller should receive a busy signal no more than 3 percent of the time.

-Customer service and bill payment locations must be open during normal business hours and conveniently located.

-Installations must be within seven days of an order.

-Customers must be notified of any changes in rates, programming or channel positions at least 30 days before the change.

-Bills must be clear, concise and understandable and refund checks must be issued promptly.

The agency also finalized its rules for negotiations that must take place between local cable companies and broadcast stations for dial positions and possible payments or joint business deals.

Under the law, cable companies don’t have an automatic right to broadcast signals but must reserve at least one-third of their channels for use by the broadcasters.

The cable industry is challenging those provisions in federal court in Washington.

The key effect on consumers will be possible change in channel placement in October.

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