There are reasons why Comcast is such a terrible company but this week when I called them to complain that our phone and Internet connection was down, before even apologizing for the interruption of service or promising to do anything about it, the agent first threatened that if the technician came to fix their equipment and if the fault was ours (the technician gets to arbitrarily decide whose fault it is — imagine the potential for abuse if someone does not have masters level education in engineering like me?) we would be slapped with a $50 fine (it was not clear if they will fix the problem or expect me to fix it anyway). Alternatively, the cheerful agent suggested that while we were sitting without a phone and Internet because Comcast had problems, we could sign up the Xfinity Service Plan Protection (SPP) for a monthly fee to pay them to service their equipment.
Definitely, Comcast is not alone in figuring out that the easiest way to add to the top line is by charging fees for items that have traditionally been free, for example, to bring your bags alone on a trip if you pay for the ticket. The airline industry has been one of the most remarkable success stories in finding new revenue streams from existing infrastructure. The banks have done so with ATM fees recently (now it costs nearly five bucks to get your own money out from a machine). The credit card industry also relies very heavily on fees.
As disgusting as it sounds for us as consumers, the lesson here is that once you figure out that your customers are helpless and can be bullied, it is easy to add revenue through fees without any significant investment.