Just days before the owners of NBC go all Olympics all the time, the state of Washington today slapped Comcast with a $100 million-plus lawsuit over a “pattern of deceptive practices.” After negotiations with the cable giant collapsed recently, the consumer protection action officially was announced Monday by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson at a press conference in Seattle.
“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its Washington state consumers,” Ferguson said today of the self-proclaimed “first in the nation” suit. “I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers and the law.”
Filed in state court in the Evergreen State after negotiations with Comcast broke down in July, the complaint (read it here) seeks injunctive and other relief. “Comcast has violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act over 1.8 million times through unfair and deceptive acts and practices relating to its Service Protection Plan, service call fees it charges consumers, and deposits it obtained from consumers,” the suit says.
“Comcast grossly misrepresented the SPP to consumers to induce them to purchase the SPP.” says the 17-page complaint filed Monday morning, claiming over $70 million in improper fees being collected in the state for the nationwide plan. While a regional Comcast rep said earlier today that the company had not seen the suit, the company did not respond further to requests for comment on the lawsuit. According to Ferguson’s office, the parties were in talks over the issues but the fee Comcast was willing to settle with was too low, in the AG’s opinion. A trial in the case has been set for July 2017. (UPDATE – Comcast issued the following statement on the case: 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.)
Up until very recently this year, aka “the eve of litigation,” the AG claims that Comcast “grossly misrepresented” its protection plan to more than 400,000 consumers in the state. That misrepresentation resulted in “deceiving them into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over the last five years for a near-worthless” service. While the protection plan promised in sales calls and more that it would eliminate any additional fees for “inside wiring” service calls, improper service calls fix codes and more, the fine print of the roughly $60-a-year plan and the charges consumers paid out revealed that was not the case.
Along with seeking the return of about $73 million in fees, the Washington action wants to see the company pay out more than $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act as well as other restitution and a clarification by Comcast on what services its plans truly offer. Additionally, more than 6,000 unnecessary credit checks were done by Comcast, says the AG, even in some cases where new customers already had paid a deposit to avoid such a check, which can affect credit rating. Ferguson said today that the investigation into the matter started more than a year ago, after an employee of the AG’s office had an unwelcome credit check, but more complaints soon followed.
“Comcast needs to pay that money back,” Democrat Ferguson told assembled media today of the various fees that he claims consumers were bilked. “I refuse to let Comcast put its profits before people.”