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Comcast faces $100m lawsuit for 1.8m violations of Consumer Protection Act

Lady Justice

The Attorney General for the State of Washington has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Comcast for 1.8 million violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

The lawsuit covers a number of violations including misrepresenting the scope of its Service Protection Plan, charging customers improper service call fees and improper credit screening practices, though the scale of the challenge could be seen as more of a worry. While the lawsuit being faced in Washington is an immediate concern, the Attorney General believes the violations are common throughout a nationwide company, potentially opening the door for further lawsuits in other states, and a possibly crippling bill for Comcast.

The Attorney General said the violations were highlighted to the company more than twelve months ago, but work to correct the practices only began in recent weeks, just prior to the lawsuit being filed. The state believes Comcast collected more than $73 million off customers over the last five years, without fully disclosing the terms and conditions of the protection plans. The protection plan costs $4.99 a month and allows customers to avoid being charged if a Comcast technician visits their home to fix an issue covered by the plan, though the limitations of the plan were not made available to customers.

“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers, and the law.”

One of the more prominent points of the lawsuit focuses on Comcast’s telling customers the plan covered inside wiring, customer-owned equipment connected to Comcast services and on-site education about products. Comcast did not however make available the information the plan did not cover “wall-fished” wiring (inside the wall), which constitutes the majority of customers in the state.

During the investigation, the Attorney General contacted Comcast several times, with customer service agents incorrectly stating plans covered inside wiring. A script used by customer service agents was obtained by the Attorney General, which also confirms the misleading practice. Comcast itself has claimed the restrictions are available in the terms and conditions, the company does not provide this information to customers, or even require customers to approve the terms and conditions themselves.

The lawsuit also focuses on numerous improper charges, which the Attorney General believes to be deceptive. Comcast currently makes a Customer Guarantee all 1.2 million Washington customers, which states ‘We won’t charge you for a service visit that results from Comcast equipment or network problem’. Contrary to this promise, Comcast charged numerous customers, as well as creating a hidden fix code for technicians to allow them to charge for work which normally wouldn’t incur a charge, the Attorney General claims.

Due to the size of this lawsuit, there is unlikely to be an end in sight for some time. Any decision either way will likely be appealed, though the ripples of such a lawsuit could be felt far and wide throughout the US. Comcast is one of the most widespread brands in North America, and should the practices prove to be nationwide, as the Attorney General is claiming, there could be a precedent set. Financially, this could be a hammer blow for Comcast, which has denied the allegations.

The Attorney General claims this lawsuit is the first of its kind in the US, though few should be surprised if it is not the last.


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