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Comcast has been illegally deceiving customers in the state of Washington to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by the state’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
Ferguson claims the cable and internet giant has committed nearly 2 million violations of the Consumer Protection Act and is suing for more than $74 million in restitution and $2,000 per violation of the CPA — plus broad injunctions to make the company clean up its act.
Comcast has been misrepresenting the scope of its service protection plan, charging customers improper service call fees and screening their credit improperly, Ferguson claims. (Read the full lawsuit here.)
“The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the nation — though the Service Protection Plan is a nationwide program and many of the improper practices are used in all of Comcast’s markets,” says a statement issued Monday by Ferguson’s office. “The Attorney General’s Office brought these issues to Comcast over a year ago, but the company didn’t begin to make changes until recently — on the verge of this litigation.”
The lawsuit claims Comcast tricked half a million Washington consumers into paying a combined $73 million for a “near-worthless” protection plan. The plan charges $4.99 per month for the convenience of not having to pay a fee when a Comcast technician visits a customer’s home to fix an issue covered by the plan — but Ferguson claims the company failed to disclose the limitations of that plan and customers must “proactively search Comcast’s website” to find the restrictions within the plans’ terms and conditions.
Ferguson also claims Comcast was charging fees to non-plan subscribers for services that should have been free, such as Comcast equipment issues, and has been improperly screening the credit of customers in connection to an equipment deposit waiver offer for those with high credit.
“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain,” Ferguson says in the statement. “I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers — and the law.”
Comcast issued a statement Monday in response to the lawsuit: “The Service Protection Plan has given those Washington consumers who chose to purchase it great value by completely covering over 99% 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. 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.”
Aug. 1, 2:45 p.m. Updated with a statement from Comcast.
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