Americans deal with a lot of hidden charges and price hikes when they pay for their internet, phone, and cable bills. In fact, a 2019 survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults by Consumer Reports found that about 85% percent of Americans have paid an unexpected or hidden fee for a service they used. Thankfully, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just passed a rule that can help protect consumers from such fees.
Internet service providers (ISPs) will now be required to display easy-to-understand "nutrition labels" at the point of sale to allow consumers to make better decisions when purchasing broadband services. These labels should show key information such as prices, speeds, fees, data allowances, and other critical information. These labels will resemble the popular nutrition labels that you can find on food products.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel had this to say in a statement:
"We are borrowing the model from food products because we want to make basic information about internet service easy to understand. Going forward, our rules will require that broadband nutrition labels are fully displayed when a consumer is making a purchasing decision. That means consumers will have simple, easy-to-read facts about price, speed, data allowances, and other aspects of high-speed internet service up front. Plus, by requiring that providers display introductory rates clearly, we are seeking to end the kind of unexpected fees and junk costs that can get buried in long and mind-numbingly confusing statements of terms and conditions. "
The labels must be standard, machine-readable, and displayed in proximity to an associated plan advertisement. ISPs cannot require users to perform multiple clicks to access the label or display it as an icon or link that can easily be missed.
The FCC will announce the effectivity date of the label after it has completed the necessary next steps, including reviews by the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act. But as early as now, ISPs can review FCC's requirements so the labels can be refined and improved. "In the end, our goal is to make the purchasing of broadband service more simple and more competitive for consumers everywhere," Rosenworcel concluded.