BSkyB coy about price rises

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The Independent Online
RUPERT MURDOCH'S Sky Television is imposing price increases of up to 43 per cent on its 2.7 million direct subscribers - but the first some of them may learn of it is when they open their bank statements next month.

Some subscribers have complained that Sky has not made the increased charges - which are automatically debited from their bank or credit card accounts - clear enough. They accuse the satellite TV company of 'burying' the notification in the third paragraph of an impersonal sheet of paper inserted in a 148-page magazine sent out to subscribers last week.

Unless subscribers cancel their direct debits, the increased monthly charge will automatically be debited from their bank, building society or credit card accounts.

Paul Harries, managing director of the satellite TV publishing company TV Live, believes many subscribers will not realise they are paying more. He says he has already heard eight or nine complaints.

'It would appear that Sky may not have adequately notified subscribers of the price increase. We're hoping that this will be rectified by Sky, as there is considerable disquiet in the industry and among viewers.'

One Sky subscriber said: 'It's a pretty bad show the way they've foisted this on us. It's inertia selling, isn't it?'

Liz Roberts, a Sky spokeswoman, denied that some subscribers might not realise prices had been raised: 'The indication of the price increases in our view has been correctly and properly given.'

Sky's parent, BSkyB, owned by News Corporation, Pearson, Granada and Chargeurs of France, stands to make an extra pounds 97m a year as a result of the price increases. Last month it announced that pre-tax profits had tripled to pounds 177m.

Every subscription, from the pounds 6.99 a month basic rate to the pounds 19.99 package of three premium services, has been increased by a flat rate of pounds 3 beginning on 1 October.

The rules of BACS, the banking organisation that oversees direct debits, do not specify how clearly organisations should notify customers of changes to debited amounts.

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