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BREAKING NEWS

Washington's AG lawsuit claims Comcast 'deceived customers' and charged for service plans without consent
December 22, 2017




Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson at news conference Thursday regarding Comcast.

Chronicle staff

(SEATTLE, WA.)  —  On Thursday Washington State  Attorney General Bob Ferguson amended his lawsuit against Comcast to include "new evidence revealing even more deceptive conduct than previously alleged," according to a statement from Ferguson's office which filed a more than one-hundred-million-dollar lawsuit against the cable TV and Internet giant in King County Superior Court in August of 2016.

That lawsuit alleges Comcast misrepresented the scope of its Service Protection Plan (SPP) as part of more than 1.8 million violations of Washington’s Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

More than half a million Washingtonians subscribed to the SPP since 2011, paying at least $73 million to Comcast for the service plan from 2011 through the end of 2015.

A sample of recorded calls between SPP subscribers and Comcast representatives obtained by the Attorney General’s Office reveal that Comcast may have signed up more than half of all SPP subscribers without their consent. Comcast allegedly deceived consumers even when mentioning the SPP, telling them the SPP plan was “free” when they signed up, when in fact, Comcast would automatically charge them every month after the first month.

“This new evidence makes clear that Comcast’s conduct is even more egregious than we first realized,” Ferguson said. “The extent of their deception is shocking, and I will hold them accountable for their treatment of Washington consumers.”

Ferguson claims sample of customer calls reveals 'massive deception'

In May 2017, King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw ordered Comcast to provide the Attorney General’s Office with “telephone calls that exist in which [Comcast] sold the SPP to Washington consumers.” In response to the court order, Comcast turned over to the Attorney General’s Office recordings of calls between Comcast and 1,500 Washington consumers whom Comcast signed up for the SPP.

The Attorney General’s Office analyzed a random sample of recorded sales calls between Comcast and 150 Washingtonians.

"Comcast did not even mention the SPP to nearly half the sample," says the AG office statement. "Additional consumers in the sample explicitly rejected the SPP, but Comcast signed them up anyway. Consequently, Comcast enrolled more than half of these subscribers without their consent."

Even when Comcast actually mentioned the SPP on the sales call before signing consumers up for the SPP, Comcast continued to engage in deception. Comcast deceptively failed to disclose the SPP was a monthly recurring charge to 20 percent of the Washingtonians in the sample. Rather, Comcast often told subscribers the SPP was added for “free” to their account, says the Ferguson statement.

New evidence expands original $100 million-plus lawsuit, Comcast says claims are not factual

Ferguson’s original 2016 lawsuit asserts Comcast violated the CPA to all of its nearly 1.2 million subscribers in Washington state. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the nation — though the SPP is a nationwide program.

When filing his lawsuit, Ferguson announced he is seeking full restitution for the $73 million paid by SPP subscribers in Washington state. He announced he is also seeking penalties for violations of the CPA for a total of more and $100 million to hold Comcast accountable. The CPA allows a penalty of up to $2,000 per violation. 

Comcast released a statement to the news media saying the company strongly disagrees with Ferguson's claims and further that the claims are "based on flawed methodology and assumptions" and that Mr. Ferguson's news conference on the matter "misrepresnted the facts."







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