Attorney General Bob Ferguson came out swinging against Comcast. Saying the cable giant knowingly deceived and misled its customers violating the consumer protection act 1.8 million times.
“This was not on one occasion, once in a while, accidental, this was systematic over a period of years”, Ferguson said.
Ferguson’s first target was Comcast’s Service Protection Plan. A half million customers paid five dollars a month to avoid service call fees if they had a problem. The complaint alleges the company’s advertising said the plan was “comprehensive” and “covers all chargeable service calls…”
Ferguson says in reality many services were not covered in the plan including inside wiring issues.
“Nothing changes the fact that they were deceptive the way they advertised this plan. That’s what matters under the law.”
The lawsuit also claims Comcast created a code labeled “U52”. It allowed the company to add service charges to a normally not charged fixed code in other words, “You give a technician a code that says bill a customer for something you cannot bill them for. What’s up with that”, said Ferguson.
Finally, Comcast is accused of improperly obtaining deposits from more than six thousand customers.
Comcast requires new customers to get a credit screening unless they pay a deposit to avoid it.
And those who had good credit didn’t have to pay any deposits.
However, the lawsuit says Comcast still ran checks on customers who paid their deposits and collected them from people with good credit. Assistant Attorney general Dan Davies says that’s troublesome,” It can lower your credit score which could impact your ability to get a bank loan to get a house or if you want to get a new car loan.”
In a statement Comcast says, “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.”
Ferguson says some of these allegations go back as far as five years and that Comcast’s recent improvements just aren’t good enough.
“It took the imminent filing of our complaint before they corrected those. They knew what the problems were more than a year ago, and for a better part of that year they did nothing to correct them.”
Comcast says it will defend themselves. A source at Comcast tells me that the U52 code wasn’t as Ferguson described it. I’m told the code was used in cases where there was work in addition that covered by the plan. The other time the code would be used is when the call was labeled as under the service plan, but when the technician actually saw the work, it wasn’t covered. The source also told me the situation with the credit screenings is being looked at by the company.
There’s at least $74 million dollars at stake in refunds in this legal battle. I’ve been asked by viewers ow to get involved in the case. Here’s the deal, if the case gets to that point, the AG will most likely contact you. If you want to complain about the service plan, file a complaint with the AG’s Office of Consumer Protection. That way the AG will be able to find you quickly.
Comcast Statement by Beth Hester, Vice President of External Affairs for Comcast in Washington State:
“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.”
If you think you might be a customer impacted by the lawsuit, you can file a complaint here with the Attorney General.
Photo By Joe Raedle/Getty Images