Washington State Sues Comcast Over Deceptive Promises

Published: August 2, 2016 10:10 PM /



Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against Comcast over what he considers to be "a pattern of deceptive practices." The lawsuit alleges that the company has committed 1.8 million violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act. The lawsuit is seeking at least $100 million.

The first of the claims in the lawsuit concerns a subscription that Comcast offers to its customers. Customers on the Service Protection Plan pay $4.99 per month and in return, they will not be charged if a Comcast technician visits their home. There are limitations in this plan. For example, the plan doesn't cover visits that deal with wiring inside a wall. However, the Attorney General's Office obtained customer service scripts during its investigation which it claims instruct Comcast employees to mislead customers about the limitations of the plan. About 500,000 Washington residents have subscribed to this plan, which has brought in about $73 million for Comcast in the past 5 years.

The second claim in the lawsuit concerns a Comcast guarantee which states, "We won’t charge you for a service visit that results from a Comcast equipment or network problem." This guarantee applies to all 1.2 million Comcast customers in the state of Washington. However, the Attorney General discovered numerous cases of customers being charged in situations where Comcast's equipment or network was the problem.

The final claim in the suit concerns credit screening conducted by Comcast. Comcast requires customers to put down a deposit for equipment, which can be waived if the customers have a high credit score. However, more than 6000 customers were forced to put down a deposit even though they had a high credit score. The suit claims that this improper screening by the company negatively affected the credit score of those customers.

The suit is seeking over $73 million in restitution for all subscribers of the Service Protection Plan. It also asks for restitution in all cases where customers were charged even though Comcast's own equipment or network was the problem, which is estimated to be over $1 million. It is also seeking up to $2000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act. Additionally, it asks for the removal of improper credit checks from the credit reports of the affected customers. Finally, it asks for full disclosure of the limitations of the Service Protection Plan in advertising and from customer support representatives.

The company issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, which mainly defended Service Protection Plan, without saying much of the other issues raised in the lawsuit. It said, "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. 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."

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I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.