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Washington state sues Comcast for $100M

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2015, file photo, Comcast trucks are parked in a lot in the company's Westford, Mass. operations center. (AP Photo/Tali Arbel, File)

SEATTLE -- Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a $100 million consumer lawsuit against Comcast.

The lawsuit accuses Comcast of "engaging in a pattern of deceptive practices." It asserts that the company’s own documents reveal a pattern of illegally deceiving its customers to pad its bottom line by tens of millions of dollars.

Comcast said in a statement that it intends to fight the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges more than 1.8 million individual violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The Attorney General's Office says 500,000 Washington consumers were affected.

A spokesman for Comcast said the company had not seen the lawsuit but will likely have a full statement after Ferguson's news conference on Monday

The lawsuit also accuses Comcast of violating the Consumer Protection Act to all of its nearly 1.2 million Washington subscribers due to its deceptive “Comcast Guarantee," Ferguson said.

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

The lawsuit accuses Comcast of misleading 500,000 Washington consumers and deceiving them into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over the last five years for what the attorney general says is a a near-worthless protection plan. Customers who sign up for Comcast’s Service Protection Plan pay a $4.99 monthly fee to avoid being charged if a Comcast technician visits their home.

But the plan did not cover wiring inside a wall, the lawsuit says.

The Attorney General Office says 75 percent of the time, customers who contacted Comcast were told the plan covered inside wiring. Customer service scripts, which the Attorney General's Office said it obtained during its investigation, told Comcast representatives to say that the plan covers calls "related to inside wiring" and "wiring inside your home."

The Attorney General's Office says that Comcast misrepresents the limitations of several other elements of the plan, including its coverage of service calls related to consumer-owned equipment and the repair of cable jumpers, connectors and splitters.

in its statement, Comcast defended the plan.

“The Service Protection Plan has given those Washington consumers who chose to purchase it great value by completely covering over 99 percent of their repair calls," said Beth Hester, vice president of external affairs for Comcast in Washington. "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 the Attorney General’s Office, we’re surprised and disappointed that they have instead chosen litigation. We stand behind our products and services and will vigorously defend ourselves.”

The lawsuit also accuses Comcast of charging fees to many non-Service Protection Plan subscribers for services that should have been free.

The lawsuit says Comcast has a customer guarantee that promises: “We won’t charge you for a service visit that results from a Comcast equipment or network problem.”

But the lawsuit says Comcast charged for service calls that resulted from a Comcast equipment or network problem.

The investigation found "thousands of instances of improper credit screening by Comcast, unnecessarily impacting the credit reports of those customers."

Comcast requires a deposit for equipment, which can be waived if a credit check reveals a high credit score.

Still, consumers paid a deposit more than 6,000 times even though consumers had high credit scores.

The lawsuit is seeking

• More than $73 million in restitution to pay back Service Protection Plan subscriber payments;

• Full restitution for all service calls that applied an improper resolution code, estimated to be at least $1 million;

• 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 Protection Plan in advertising and through its representatives, correct improper service codes that should not be chargeable and implement a compliance procedure for improper customer credit checks.

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