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US broadband providers to begin providing new comparison labels

FILE PHOTO: The Verizon logo is seen on the 375 Pearl Street building in Manhattan, New York City

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major U.S. broadband internet providers must start displaying information similar to nutrition labels on food products to help consumers shop for services starting on April 10, under new rules from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Verizon Communications said it will begin providing the labels on Wednesday. The FCC first moved to mandate the labels in 2022. Smaller providers will be required to provide labels starting in October.

The rules require broadband providers to display, at the point of sale, labels that show prices, speeds, fees and data allowances for both wireless and wired products.

Verizon Chief Customer Experience Officer Brian Higgins said in an interview the labels will help consumers make "an equal comparison" between product offerings, speeds and fees.

Higgins said standardized labels across the industry "make it easier for customers to do a comparison of which provider is going to be the best fit for their needs." He said customers will still need to research various bundling offers across carriers.

The labels were first unveiled as a voluntary program in 2016. Congress ordered the FCC to mandate them under the 2021 infrastructure law.

"Consumers will finally get information they can use to comparison shop, avoid junk fees, and make informed choices about which high-speed internet service is the best fit for their needs and budget," FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said.

Labels must be fully displayed on main purchasing pages and "cannot be buried in multiple clicks or reduced to a link or icon that a consumer might miss," Rosenworcel added.

The FCC is addressing various pricing disclosure issues and this month adopted rules requiring cable and satellite TV providers to specify "all-in" prices prominently to end what the commission said was the "misleading practice of describing video programming costs as a tax, fee, or surcharge."

The FCC has also proposed to bar cable and satellite TV providers from charging consumers early-termination fees to exit contracts and to refund subscribers if they cancel prior to the end of a billing cycle.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)