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Updated: Bright House Charges $20 “Collection Fee” When They Call About Past-Due Bills

Phillip Dampier April 18, 2012 Bright House, Consumer News, Video 20 Comments

Bright House Networks charges a $20 “collection processing fee” when the cable operator calls customers to remind them they have a past due balance. The fee, charged in addition to the company’s traditional “late charge,” has some Bright House customers upset.

The cable company explains the $20 “collection fee” is levied when a customer is two months past due and represents the costs of contacting the customer and “paperwork” inside Bright House’s offices.  But some customers consider it gouging, especially because they already pay a late fee.

Bright House Networks’ Residential Services Agreement implies a “collection fee” may only be charged when the company dispatches a representative to your home to request/collect payment for a past due amount (underlining ours):

If my Services account is past due and BHN sends a collector to my premises, a field collection fee may be charged. The current field collection fee is on the price list or can be provided on request. I will also be responsible for all other expenses (including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs) incurred by BHN in collecting any amounts due under this Agreement and not paid by me.

Bright House charges a $20 "Collection Processing Fee" when it calls past due customers.

It also appears the “collection fee” has been a part of the Bright House experience since at least 2009.  We found one customer from Ocoee, Fla. complaining Bright House was charging a $20 “collection fee” for cable service billed at less than $21 a month.

If you have been charged both past-due and collection fees by Bright House, ask them to waive the fees.  We found several customers who successfully requested the company forgive one or both charges when an account is brought up to date.

Customers having trouble paying Bright House should consider dropping services to lower the bill or negotiate for a retention deal.  Customers threatening to switch to the competition are often able to secure a substantially lower price for service.

Bright House’s reasons for charging the $20 fee seem dubious to us, unless the company actually dispatches an employee to a customer’s home to seek payment.  But then we’d find it difficult to recommend any company that would send an employee to visit a customer’s home demanding money.  Cutting off service to deadbeat customers is often effective enough to prompt a payment arrangement.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WOFL Orlando BrightHouse Late Fees 4-12-12.mp4

WOFL in Orlando covers the case of one late-paying Seminole County man who is annoyed Bright House charges him $20 to let him know he is past due.  (2 minutes)

[Updated 3:59pm ET 4/19 — A Bright House representative reached out to emphasize the cable company charges a $20 collection fee only after not receiving payment for two months.  A collections agent is physically sent to the address to give notice of possible termination and at that time a collections fee is billed.  The company denies it bills this fee when calling customers to inquire about a payment.  This seems in keeping with the company’s residential customer agreement, quoted above.  We appreciate the additional information and are happy to pass it on to our readers.]

Currently there are 20 comments on this Article:

  1. Gary Doda says:

    Mr. Dampier,

    While I’m sure you had the best of intentions your article is unfortunately full of inaccuracies. You are basing your facts off of a story featured on Orlando’s FOX 35 that was also incorrect. While it is true that we do make outbound calls initially when an account becomes past due we DO NOT charge a collection fee simply by calling our valued customers.

    A late fee is assessed should a customer miss the 31 days given for initial payment. If payment is not received after two months a collections agent is physically sent to the address to give notice of possible termination and at that time a collections fee is billed. This also gives our customer the opportunity to make payment and avoid loss of service in the event they have been unable to utilize one of our many options for payment or visit a lobby location.

    Perhaps next time you will actually take the time to call or email us here at Bright House Networks and we would be happy to give you the actual facts.

    Thank you,

    Gary Doda
    Online Forums Manager
    Bright House Networks
    [email protected]

    • Gary,

      Thank you for the updated information. Our policy is always to provide readers with updates when corrections or additional information reaches us, and you will find the piece now includes your information.

      We did attempt to reach out to Bright House, but not at the address you note above. We never heard back. We’ll add your contact information to our database.

      Thanks again for reaching out to us.

      Phillip Dampier

      • Theresa Bailey says:

        Either Mr. Doda is lying, or there is a lack of consistency in following procedure among the Bright House representatives.

        When I signed up for Bright House, my paperwork never said anything regarding an additional $20 notification fee or sending someone out to my house when my bill is late. First, I never received any phone calls because your company had the wrong phone number for me. Second, 9/16/14 was only 36 days past the due date of my past due bill. 36 days!!! Third, it was actually only 10 days past the ending date of the service billing cycle (7/27/14 – 8/26/14).

        According to Mr. Doda, someone isn’t sent out to a customer’s house unless the bill is 2 months past due. 2 months!! So how did 36 days past due get me a visit from someone from his company. I found it to be extremely disturbing to have someone show up at my door in the middle of the day, as I am a single lady. However, I do have a gun, so that did give me some sense of security.

        I spoke to a rep tonight who said that someone was sent out because my bill was 2 months past due, which wasn’t true. He said he removed the $20 charge; yet it still shows up on my account online.

        As soon as I am able to switch to a different internet provider, I will be dropping all of the services with this company that I have been paying for (internet, Digital Cable & DVR). My HOA provides basic cable service through the fees we pay; however, if I had a choice, I would be getting my cable somewhere else as well. Although I have always had my cable and internet services through this company (because in the past they provided great customer service), that is not the case any longer.

        Remember when AT&T was the only game in town for local and long distance phone companies. They had the worst, “I don’t give a crap about customers” customer service. They had to learn a really hard lesson regarding their lack of customer service once other options became available to their customers. Their customers began to drop them like a hot potato.

        It would seem Bright House is heading in the same direction. I have NO desire to remain with this company, and will not return to this company until that policy (of sending people out to collect late payments and charging $20) is no longer in effect, and their customer service acts like they really care about pleasing (and keeping) their customers..

        Theresa V. Bailey

    • patrick says:

      I have been hit 4 times in 4 months and I pay at least 75% of each months bill per month so why would you still send some one to collect a 30 dollar outstanding balance and slap me with a 20 dollar collection fee when I am already struggling to pay each month. (I know just shut off the service and save my money)

  2. MattD says:

    Ooh, did someone hit a nerve Bright House?

    I live in a Bright House service area in suburban Orlando myself and I saw the story and while it seems like collection calls alone are not enough to bill you the fee, almost everything in the article above is correct.

    1) Bright House charges $20 when a customer is more than two months past due. Check.
    2) Bright House sends an employee or agent to bang on the door of past due customers. Check.
    3) Bright House also charges late fees. Check.
    4) Bright House will waive them if you ask nicely. Check.

    In fact, the author did WOFL better and actually noted this is not a new fee, despite what your own spokespeople told Ch. 35 (so I don’t know how many ‘actual facts’ Bright House can manage even from its own employees). Also, he even quoted the exact section of your customer agreement.

    “Full of inaccuracies?” You wish.

    If your company ever sent a collection agent to knock on my door, he’ll leave with my cable box and modem.

    Customer friendly service for valued customers? I dont think so.

    –MattD

    • Loons In June! says:

      “Customer friendly service for valued customers? I dont think so.”

      Here is a definition of a customer from Merriam Webster.

      “one that purchases a commodity or service”

      Clearly purchasing is an exchange of money for services, if someone is two months behind in their money exchanging they are technically not a customer. It is then hard to be valued.

      • I was struck by a somewhat similar view after watching the story. The guy has a $500 past due balance and what appears to be an enormous number of services. If you can’t afford to pay the bill, you shouldn’t be subscribing to the service. I have no problem with Bright House charging a late fee, but the $20 fee sounds closer to revenue-padding. Just cut the service off — it’s the best incentive around to get people to pay up. Sending someone out to your home is this side of too much.

        If the person couldn’t afford their cable bill, adding another $20 to their debt pile isn’t going to get you paid any faster.

  3. Loons In June! says:

    “I have no problem with Bright House charging a late fee, but the $20 fee sounds closer to revenue-padding. Just cut the service off — it’s the best incentive around to get people to pay up. Sending someone out to your home is this side of too much.
    If the person couldn’t afford their cable bill, adding another $20 to their debt pile isn’t going to get you paid any faster.”

    I see your point and in an ideal world everyone would pay their bills and their would not have to be any resources devoted to encouraging them to do so. Clearly though its a cost of doing business. However it is those that pay their bills that subsidize the cost of collections teams, special processes to route these calls to them, and the dedicated team that goes out and shuts these people off! I don’t see it as revenue padding, more like a contribution to the cost paid by valued customers who pay on time every month.

  4. Bev says:

    This $20 is not a collections fee. It is nothing more than a rip off to consumers who are behind. They might label it as a collection fee, but if a car pulls up and leaves a note on your door and does not attempt to “collect” any past due money, then I would label it as a $20 reminder that your bill is overdue. (everyone knows when their bill is overdue). Also, I am not convinced that disconnecting cable service is as “labor intensive” as they claim. I am sure it can be done from the local office without “dispatching a staff of employees” to a customers home. I would also like to know why Brighthouse passes along their franchise fee to each customer. Can anyone explain this fee? I have never noticed a “franchise fee” on my receipt when I make a purchase from any other business. Perhaps all of the fees on the Brighthouse “fee menu” should be labeled revenue.

    • patrick says:

      The cable can not be turned off with a switch, Some one has to physically disconnect it from either the pole or a transmitting junction box and the apply a locking device to the end of the cable so the person who got shut off will not just steal it back when the tech leaves. I don’t care that they charge a fee I was upset because they never informed me that they charge a fee until I got one. It may be written some place on the bill, but I have never looked I am paperless.

  5. terry simmons says:

    Although I have only just come across this article and although I am not a bright house customer, I am a customer of a different service provider. It would appear to me that bright house is more than fair with their customer’s. From what I understand once a customer is in the 31-60 day past due column their account is scheduled for a disconnection of service. It is only after the customer calls in and makes payment arrangements does this disconnect order get cancelled and the customer continues to receives all their services with the agreement that they would pay the agreed upon amount on the agreed upon date (Promise to Pay arrangement). If this promise to pay arrangement is not made and the amount falls into the 61-90 day column service is disconnected and a collection notice is sent out. It is only at this time that the $20 collection fee is applied.

    I see no issue here in this charge, the customer was given an extension to pay their bill and does not call back in to make an alternate arrangement before that agreed upon date arrives and they do not call afterwards. They just hide and wait (I guess hoping they will slip through the system), lets be reasonable here. If any of you or I were running a business and your customers weren’t paying you till the over 90 day mark. None of you would be so accepting. After all businesses have expenses as well.

    I totally agree with the response above. If you can’t afford the service then get rid of it. If you need internet then go to your public library or unemployment resource centre. Can’t afford cable then start listening to the radio, or how about picking up a book to read, playing with your kids, going for a walk. When the finances are not there, the only ones we hurt by over spending on luxury items…. and all of these services (a part from having a phone) is a luxury item. Grow up and get your financial house in order….. So many people like to blame others for situations that they have brought on themselves in the first place.

    Sorry for the rambling …. but I just had to add my 2 cents.

    • Margo says:

      Also in regards to this comment above by Terry Simmons “…service is disconnected and a collection notice is sent out. It is only at this time that the $20 collection fee is applied.”
      THIS IS VERY UNTRUE!
      I was NEVER contacted that mine was even late, and recieved no call and no notice of any kind, except this random door hanger so your matter of fact statement is very far from the facts.

      • patrick says:

        I am in the same boat as Margo, I did know I was behind, but only by 50 to 60 dollars each month. I had some one come to my house three times. Two of which I was home and they asked if I knew I was 50 dollars behind and if I wanted to pay now or have it put on next months bill? I was never informed of a collection fee, nor did Bright house EVER call or e-mail me with a late notice. I found out the third time they sent some one and I was not home and found the door hanger stapled to my fencepost, which stated a twenty dollar fee. So to Gary Doda, I say you and the company you work for are full of it. Had some one called and said hey if you don’t pay of this remaining balance in eight or nine days you are gonna get hit with a second late fee I woulda paid.

    • michele perez says:

      This may be two years late in coming but I think getting charged $20 on $2 and $6 balances (mind you, nobody came to the door – the most I’d get is an automated recording to call BH about a very important message). Blockbuster got in a bit of trouble for all their “fees” so there must be a point at which fees become more than reasonable. If you read my posts below, they were posting fees on late fees with a zero balance. This is not good business unless the only thing that matters is racking up all the money you can, good business to me is a two-way street. This is why I shop at companies that are either good to me, their employees, are local, or respond to their customers. I am happy to be done with BH, I wish I had just skipped them altogether. And it is not a matter of affording, my husband and I are both professionals in nursing and engineering, we would rather pay fair prices and use our hard-earned money for better things.

  6. Margo says:

    It’s GOUGING plain and simple, and really poor customer service. I was NEVER called and only found a door hanger on my door when I got home from work. I was never contacted but now have to pay $20 because Brighthouse decided to waste money sending someone to my house instead of calling? Starting to sound like Verizon customer service now.

  7. Kate says:

    I f ing hate brighthouse. The worse thing iever got involvedwith. I only owe 200 an they want to have a warrent for my arrest..wtf##########!?

    • eric says:

      Maybe if more people will start stealing their f#cking service they wouldnt be such assholes. I bet if i bought their service and charged both my neighbors 20 dollars a month the stupid f#cks would be paid and totally clueless lmao. Greed is gonna get them f#cked up and put out of business

  8. michele perez says:

    I am a former Brighthouse customer of something like 12 years. Our last few years were riddled with enormous late fees incurred from every minor rate increase, a rental movie, or a previous late fee. This was so confusing I would just pay the 300-400 cable/internet/phone bill that should have been somewhere in the 140s simply because I’m really busy and it was the only game in town. When I got married my husband started to notice that these fees were frequent and questionable. So he would call and spend upwards of an hours on hold and talking to someone to straighten it all out. He hung up the phone, said the balance was brought to zero, he changed our auto-draft to adjust for the newest increase and done we were. Or so we thought, trusting that the representative was accurate and honest, we thought the bill was fine and truly had a zero balance BUT! the very next day, Brighthouse posted a lingering $20 late fee despite a zero balance and THAT late fee became a balance that carried over and incurred more late fees. Because we thought the whole thing was settled we did not keep an eye on things which is something you MUST do with Brighthouse because they count on you to believe all is well. So again, my husband called, zeroed the balance, confirmed that there would not be another surprise fee the next day as had happened in the past and asked the rep to send him an email indicating the balance was squared away. Instead, within a week, I received an email that I had a past due balance. I have really good credit as does my husband, and I do not like messing that hard work up but honestly, I’m so mad and disgusted that I just got rid it since I was moving the following month, I took the boxes and the remotes and every wire to their office and now, nearing two months later, I am getting a collection call. So, of course, who wins this really? I’m letting my husband deal with it when he returns home because I really don’t think I can maintain myself. What’s more interesting is two of my coworkers have switched to AT&T and I said, “let me guess, you were always getting late charges and issues with your bill” and they both said “YES! How’d you know?” Oh, I know.

  9. michele perez says:

    And whoever said it’s price gouging is absolutely right. One day this will no longer be the case – I can’t wait!

  10. JB says:

    So I got hit with a $261.43 bill, “hanger” from Brighthouse today stating they will shut off my internet if I don’t pay within 48 hours. Well that’s funny, because I use AUTO PAYMENTS for the past 13 months and my bill is always paid on time, in full. I spent 73 minutes on hold today trying to speak with someone about this, but of course never got to anyone on the phone.

    Brighthouse, you absolutely suck and this proves why I tell my friends, family, co-workers, ect. to avoid you like the plague.

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