Comcast hit with $3.7bn lawsuit over 'pattern of illegally deceiving' customers

The US State of Washington has filed a lawsuit against cable television and internet giant Comcast for a total of up to $3.7bn, alleging it has violated consumer rights over 1.8 million times.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit on Monday against Comcast to the King County Superior Court alleging “the company’s own documents reveal a pattern of illegally deceiving their customers to pad their bottom line by tens of millions of dollars”.

“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its Washington state consumers,” Ferguson said yesterday of the self-proclaimed “first-of-its-kind” suit. “I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers and the law,” Ferguson said.

“Comcast has violated Washington’s consumer protection act (CPA) over 1.8 million times through unfair and deceptive acts and practices relating to its service protection plan (SPP), service call fees it charges consumers, and deposits it obtained from consumers,” the 17-page complaint filed states. It also asks the court to grant civil penalties “of up to $2,000 per violation against Defendant for each and every violation”. This equates to additional damages totalling up to $3.6 billion being sought.

The lawsuit says Comcast “grossly misrepresented SPP” to more than 400,000 consumers in the state “to induce them to purchase the SPP”. The State says this misrepresentation deceived consumers into paying “at least $73 million in subscription fees over the last five years for a near-worthless” service, which the State is seeking to be reclaimed along with other restitution.

It further alleges that Comcast charged customers “for repairs that should be free”. It also alleges that Comcast “improperly obtained a deposit from over 6,000 Washington consumers in violation of the state’s CPA” in unnecessary credit checks.

The filing adds: “Due to limitations in the terms and conditions, the SPP often ends up failing to cover any repairs at all.” Comcast, which said that it was surprised and disappointed that litigation has been filed, it has defended its SPP, stating that it “has given consumers who chose to purchase it great value by completely covering over 99% of their repair calls”.

“Not every Washington consumer can hire an attorney to take on a powerful interest who doesn’t play by the rules. A lot of times you don’t even know they’re not playing by the rules,” Ferguson told media yesterday. He added: “Comcast needs to pay that money back. I refuse to let Comcast put its profits before people.”

A trial in the case has been set for July 2017.

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