800px-Comcast_service_van (1)Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson says Comcast isn’t playing fair with its customers.  In fact, he says Comcast committed more than 1.8 million violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act, citing improper credit screening practices and charging fees for service calls.

In addition, Ferguson says Comcast deceived customers for what he calls a “near-worthless” service plan.  As such, he’s filed a $100 million dollar lawsuit against the cable and internet company.

“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain…I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers — and the law.” – Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General.

The lawsuit claims that Comcast “misled” customers – more than 500,000 – by charging a $4.99 fee each month for a service protection plan.  By paying this fee, customers would avoid being charged a fee for a technician to visit their location if a covered item needed repair.

However, Comcast didn’t always let customers know that it didn’t cover the wiring inside a wall in the home.  In fact, Ferguson said the investigation revealed that 75% of the time, Comcast representative told customers the plan did indeed cover all insider wiring, when it doesn’t.

The AG’s office got hold of the scripts customer service reps use when talking to customers.  It told Comcast employees to say the plan covers calls “related to inside wiring” and “wiring inside your home,” when – according to Ferguson – it doesn’t.

A bigger problem for Comcast

Here’s the bigger problem for Comcast.  That service plan isn’t just a Washington state issue.  It offers the plan nationwide throughout the communities it serves.  That could open up the company to similar lawsuits.

The other issue has to do with credit checks.  Comcast requires new customers to pay a deposit on equipment.  Customers can get that fee waived if they undergo a credit check and it shows they have good credit.  Ferguson cites more than 6,000 times, according to the AG’s investigation, that people paid deposits and still had their credit checked, or that the company required the deposit even though the people had a high credit score.

“Over and over and over again, Comcast most certainly did not play by the rules.” – Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General

In a statement released this week, Beth Hester, VP/External Affairs for Comcast in Washington Comcast said the service protection plan covers “99% of their (consumer) repair calls” and it has made imporvements based on suggestions from the AGF’s office.

“It took the filing of our complaint before correcting some of the steps.  That doesn’t change the fact that for the better part of a year they did nothing.” – Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General

Lawsuit seeks restitution

The lawsuit is seeking $73 million to pay back payments made by subscribers for the Service Protection plan.  In addition, it is asking for restitution for service calls that applied an “improper resolution code” which led to charges, removal of the improper credit checks from credit reports, that Comcast clearly disclose the limitations of its Protection plan, and put in place practices to correct the problems.

In addition, it’s seeking up to $2,000 for each violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

“We stand behind our products and services and will vigorously defend ourselves.” Beth Hester, VP/External Affairs for Comcast

IMAGE:  By Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons