The nation’s largest provider of cable and Internet with annual revenues just shy of $75 billion is being sued by the Washington Attorney General in a consumer-protection lawsuit which alleges over 1.8 million violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act with regards to a misrepresented service-protection plan and Comcast’s credit check process for new customers.
AG briefs the media on Monday
“Customers who sign up for Comcast’s Service Protection Plan pay a $4.99 monthly fee ostensibly to avoid being charged if a Comcast technician visits their home to fix an issue covered by the plan,” the news release said on Monday.
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“Comcast routinely claimed that the “comprehensive” plan covered the cost of all service calls, including those related to inside wiring, customer-owned equipment connected to Comcast services and on-site education about products. However, Comcast did not appropriately disclose that the plan does not cover repairs to any “wall-fished” wiring — wiring inside a wall — which constitutes the vast majority of wiring inside homes.”
The problems date back to 2011 and in addition to the service plan could see new customers who paid a deposit to forego a credit check performed only for Comcast to conduct one anyways could also see compensation. Additionally, the AG alleges that some Comcast customers were charged a fee for a poor credit score despite the fact that they didn’t have a poor credit score.
The allegations made by the state suggest that as many as 500,000 customers could have been affected by Comcast’s practices.
To the service plan, the state alleges that Comcast charged customers a monthly fee of $4.99 to for a “comprehensive” service plan that was no more than a fee to cover the cost of a technician showing up at their homes and didn’t cover wiring inside of the wall where most problems lie.
“It simply covers the technician visiting the customer’s house and declaring that the customer’s equipment is broken,” the lawsuit says.
“This case is a classic example of a big corporation systemically deceiving Washington state consumers and putting profits above those customers and the law,” Ferguson said at the Monday briefing.
Comcast responds to the lawsuit
According to the Pennsylvania-based company, it was aware of an investigation regarding the credit checks but did not realize the scope of the suit and the AG’s intention of adding the service plan accusations to the mix.
“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. We worked with the Attorney General’s office to address every issue they raised, and we made several improvements based on their input,” Beth Hester, a Comcast vice president in Washington state, said in a statement.
“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.”
This notion that Comcast was surprised was refuted by the AG on Monday when Ferguson told reporters, “They were not surprised,” he said. “Period. Full stop.”
Ferguson did acknowledge that Comcast willingly made a number of improvements to the service plan in question in the last month, but it was not enough for his office to ignore perceived past malfeasance and now the lawsuit is both a matter of record and something that Comcast will be forced to fight, or more likely settle.