Washington State Sues Comcast for $100 Million1 Aug, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson Aug. 1 filed a lawsuit against Comcast claiming the nation’s largest premium TV service and broadband provider overcharged state consumers for allegedly bogus service plans, among other issues.
“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain,” Ferguson said in a statement.
The lawsuit accuses Comcast of misleading 500,000 Washington consumers into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over the last five years for a near-worthless “protection plan” without disclosing its significant limitations.
Customers who signed up for the plan — which is available nationwide — paid a $4.99 monthly fee ostensibly to avoid being charged if a Comcast technician visited their home to fix an issue covered by the plan.
Issues covered included inside wiring, customer-owned equipment connected to Comcast services and on-site education.
However, Ferguson claims Comcast failed to adequately disclose that the plan didn’t cover repairs to any “wall-fished” wiring — wiring inside a wall — which constitutes the vast majority of wiring inside homes.
The AGO said an investigation found Comcast misrepresented the limitations of the plan, including coverage of service calls related to consumer-owned equipment and the repair of cable jumpers, connectors and splitters.
While Comcast claims restrictions are in the plan’s terms and conditions, Ferguson said Comcast does not inform consumers upfront about them. Instead, it claims a consumer must proactively search Comcast’s website to find these terms and conditions, according to the complaint.
The AG seeks more than $73 million in restitution; full restitution for all service calls that applied an improper resolution code, estimated to be at least $1 million; the removal of improper credit checks from the credit reports of more than 6,000 customers; up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act; and that Comcast clearly disclose the limitations of its service plan in advertising and through its representatives.
Comcast, in a response, said the service protection plan covers “over 99%” of subscribers’ repair calls.
“We worked with the Attorney General’s office to address every issue they raised, and we made several improvements based on their input. Given that we were committed to continue working collaboratively with [their] office, we’re surprised and disappointed that they have instead chosen litigation. We stand behind our products and services and will vigorously defend ourselves.”
Comcast’s pole position in premium TV is what prompted the Federal Communications Commission to deny its 2014 acquisition of Time Warner Cable. Government regulators also mandated conditions in Comcast’s 2009 purchase of NBC Universal, including silent partner status with Disney and Fox of Hulu.