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Comcast Broke Law 445,000 Times In Scheme To Inflate Bills, Judge Finds

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast yesterday was ordered to refund nearly 50,000 customers and pay a $9.1 million fine when a judge ruled that it violated Washington state consumer protection law hundreds of thousands of times. Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Comcast in August 2016, accusing the nation’s largest cable company of tricking customers into buying a “near-worthless ‘protection plan’ without disclosing its significant limitations.” Buying the $5-per-month plan ostensibly prevented customers from having to pay each time a Comcast technician visited their home to fix problems covered by the plan. But in reality, the plan did not cover the vast majority of wiring problems, the AG’s lawsuit said. Moreover, Washington state attorneys said that Comcast led customers to believe that they needed to buy a Service Protection Plan (SPP) to get services that were actually covered for free by the company’s “Customer Guarantee.”

In yesterday’s ruling, King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw found that “Comcast violated the Consumer Protection Act more than 445,000 times when it charged tens of thousands of Washingtonians for its Service Protection Plan without their consent,” Ferguson’s announcement said. Each wrongful monthly charge was a separate violation, so there were multiple violations per customer. Washington state attorneys sought more than $171 million, asking the judge to order Comcast to pay $88 million in restitution to customers and $83 million in fines. The $9.1 million fine Comcast was ordered to pay is a fraction of the amount sought by Washington. But Comcast’s refunds to customers are separate from the fine, and it’s not clear exactly how much they’ll amount to.

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