Your cable box is stealing your money!



Senior Policy Counsel, Energy and Environment


We advocate for affordable, clean energy to power our homes and our vehicles.

By Shannon Baker-Branstetter on Friday, June 17th, 2011

Does your cable box stay warm all the time, even when its turned off?  That’s a sure sign that it’s wasting a lot of energy.

Set-top boxes (also known as “cable boxes”) may not seem like big power users, especially compared to your TV.  But in fact, according to a recent NRDC study, the higher-end boxes eat up more electricity than a new refrigerator, and even the more basic set-top boxes use almost as much power as a 42″ flat screen TV!

The problem is that most set-top boxes use nearly as much power in stand-by mode as they do when they’re actually working.    And throughout the country, that adds up to a lot of wasted power and money–according NRDC’s study, stand-by mode operation of set-top boxes costs consumers about $2 billion per year.  That’s 2/3 of the total cost to run the box!    The only way to avoid the power drain?  Unplug the box–not exactly convenient.  

The Department of Energy has recently started the process to require set-top boxes to lower the amount of surplus energy squandered during stand-by mode.  Set-top boxes certainly waste a lot of energy, and Consumers Union supports including set-top boxes in DOE’s successful efficiency program that has already saved consumers billions of dollars in energy costs for other appliances and electronics.  There’s no good reason set-top boxes can’t improve stand-by power usage like other electronics.

In addition, Consumers Union’s Telecomm Advocacy team has urged the FCC for more retail competition in set-top boxes so consumers have options to purchase boxes other than through the cable company.   More competition and better energy efficiency are a winning combination to save consumers money!

40 responses to “Your cable box is stealing your money!”

  1. Azel Beckner says:

    I just received my monthly bill from the Time Warner Cable company for $64.97. The big item is a Time Warner Promotion. Is the Promotion an advertisement campaign? $34.99 seems a large amount for “Promotion” . I also pay for a WIFI that I do not use. $4.99. And $10.00 for a modem lease. “Extreme Internet?” What is that? Standard internet provisioning does not cost me anything. This looks like a scam to me.
    The auto pay takes money from my account from OH and WA but uses the same Terminal number. Very fishy.

  2. Ann Flanagan says:

    The set-top boxes required by cable tv providers are a rip-off. Many regions receive cable tv signal directly to the tv rather than through the set-top descrambler. At the very least, consumers should be able to buy the boxes, rather than rent through the provider.

  3. Jay Vendola says:

    I want the option to buy my own cable box and not pay rent on it, its bad enough I have to pay high monthly service fees for channels I don’t want and need, I want the option to pick my channels.

  4. Greg Nicholas says:

    Let’s not leave out the satellite TV and ATT u-vers systems, those boxes are the same problem.

  5. Johnny Smith says:

    I want to purchase my own cable box. I don’t like the hold the cable companies have on these.

  6. j razzano says:

    tell ftc that consumers should be able to purchase their own cable box

  7. Peter Parsley says:

    I’ve paid rental charges for 2 cable boxes for a number of years. One of the remote controls is nearing complete failure and the cable company still charges as if all the components are fully operational. In fact, the company wants to charge for a new remote for which I am paying a monthly rental charge!

    I want to be buy a cable box from a source independent from the cable company. I suspect that competition would drive the cost of the boxes down over a relative short time.

  8. John Hysong says:

    I would like the privledge of having my own cable box so I could watch what I want when I want.

  9. John Hysong says:

    I would like to have the privledge of having my on cable box so I can watch what I want when I want to.

  10. B Prasad says:

    What a rip-off by cable companies, when they can control the entire through the cable network, why is a cable box even network. Network wiring are already intelligent enough to manage that.

  11. Robert Gillo says:

    I would like to be able to choose what channels I want. not what they make me have. dont watch three quarters of what is available.

  12. Ronald Dowling says:

    I wish to purchase my own cable box. Cable companies have entirely too much control.

  13. Bob Bunker says:

    Cable companies are legally screwing us and the politicians let them. Why can’t I get my own cable box and save BIG bucks? Senator Markey answer that one.

  14. I am sick and tired of the cost of being held hostage by the cable companies. HELP!!!!!!

  15. Richard Cooper says:

    Please advocate legislative changes that support that energy efficient, fair priced and competitive choices for cable services and products. I’ve been with AT&T for almost 20 years and should not be compelled to rent my inefficient, technologically antiquated cable boxes. Given the continuous increase in subscription charges, a cable box rental fee is usury.

  16. Once again we have to fight the monopolies for basic fairness and cost savings for ourselves. It is always about the revenue with these people. Given the opportunity, Comcast or whomever will gouge us as long as they are able to or until we are informed that we have other alternatives then it is up to the consumer to take action! Lets go for it! Thank Consumers Union for putting this forum together.

  17. This is America….we should at least be able to decide if we want to rent or own our cable box. This is robbery from the consumer!

  18. Mary Lou Probka says:

    I think we pay outrageous prices for the cable boxes in the house. I would rather purchase my own boxes.

  19. Mary Lou Probka says:

    I think it is outrageous how much we pay every month for cable boxes for every TV in the house.
    I would rather buy my box than continue renting.

  20. Patrick Milligan says:

    I prefer to buy, rather to rent, my cable box. I was never given that option by Comcast.

  21. I do not want to rent cable box. Consumer should be able to buy his own cable box

  22. Maria Brown says:

    I do not want to rent a cable box for the rest of my life.

  23. joe Laughton says:

    Please help us from the monopoly that the cable company’s are enjoying, let us choose where we get our cable boxes. thank you

  24. Kathy Casey says:

    The cable companies are definately ripping us off. If a cable company is providing service they should supply complete service and at no additional cost to the customer. I have 3 tv’s not running because of the cost and I have 3 tv’s with the box at 6.99 plus tax each. That is $21 additional dollars a month for a senior citizen!

  25. Dan Pisarek says:

    I would like to be able to pick my own set top box and stop the high cost of cable boxes supplied by the cable companies

  26. bruce galbraith says:

    I believe there is a monoply on cable and satalite Dish charges whatever they choose it doesn’t matter what theyadvertise or tell you over the phone they charge you the price they make up. the cable companies rnt you their box but unless you pay for maintanance evry month you pay for new equipment if it breaks and sometimes it is not new but used equipment

  27. The ban that theFederal Communications Commission is currently considering to give consumers Lower cost options and free up the monopoly the cable companies currently have should be enforced.

    The consumers currently are not only required to rent these devices for one t.v. But have to have a box for each TV in the home. Please give we consumers better options and take the control away from the cable companies

    Thank you for your attention to this matter

  28. Barbara Scharold says:

    Stop the monopoly of cable companies, allow us to decide where to purchase cable boxes.

  29. Spencer says:

    Please stop the monopoly. There’s really no choice but to unplug. That’s were I’m heading.

  30. Nick Fenkner says:

    Would be willing to buy the boxes, why not we have to purchase everything else !!! No place for the government to interfere with the little luxury item we have !!

  31. Stop the Cable Co’s. and their High Cost………

  32. Floyd Schrammeck says:

    I want to pay for just what I use, about 15 stations.
    I had to use Dish because off no cable co till 4 years ago.
    Had to get internet from Brighthouse because Dishes was so slow. cost $257. a month. now went to Brighthouse full coverage
    but is a disaster. They shut your system off if you have on for several hours. A Nascar race can last 5 hours, If you dont notice
    or go for drink it will be off when you come back. I hate it.
    Cant get a guide like Dish. Would love to go back to Dish and AT&T for internet now I guess. How is elec cost on a
    brighthouse box? not happy !

  33. Edward Dunn says:

    Free consumers from unfair cable company price gouging.

  34. I to support the efforts to free consumers from the practices of the cable companies.

  35. Eugene Leman says:

    want to buy my own cable box

  36. Eugene Leman says:

    I would like to buy my own cable box from Verizon but cannot

  37. Enrique S. Rasmussen says:

    I support the efforts to free consumers from the practices of the cable companies.

  38. Raul Machado says:

    We support the attempt to take the hidden costs for cable boxes. We should be able to decide where to purchase cable boxes.

    Raul Machado

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