State Attorney General Bob Ferguson expanded an ongoing lawsuit with Comcast on Thursday, claiming the cable giant charged many customers for a monthly service plan without telling them. Comcast says the state’s claims are baseless and mischaracterize its policies.
The Washington state attorney general’s office expanded an ongoing lawsuit with Comcast on Thursday, claiming that the cable giant signed up many Washington state customers for a monthly service plan without telling them.
The state agency said it reviewed an initial 150 sample customer-service calls to Comcast and found that 74 people were subscribed for a so-called “service-protection plan” without the plan being mentioned at all on the call. The plan currently costs $5.99 per month.
The amended complaint filed Wednesday builds on the attorney general’s original suit, filed in August 2016. The original suit sought about $100 million in restitution for consumers and penalties over claims Comcast misrepresented the service-protection plan’s coverage and inappropriately charged customers for credit checks.
With the new allegations, that amount will grow quite a bit, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said during a media briefing Thursday. His office did not have an exact figure.
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Comcast turned over call recordings from 1,500 customers who subscribe to the service-protection plan. The calls took place within three days of the customer signing up for the plan.
Phone calls are not the only way to sign up for the plan. The majority of customers, about 75 percent, sign up for the plan on the phone, but it can also be done online or in stores.
In addition to the 74 people who were signed up for the plan despite it not being mentioned on the phone, in two of the 150 calls the state office has reviewed, it said people declined the service plan but were signed up anyway. In another 29, customers were not told that the service plan had a recurring monthly charge, Ferguson said.
The company denied the added claims. “The Attorney General’s new assertions are largely based on a flawed methodology and assumptions, and today’s press conference misrepresented the facts,” Marianne Bichsel, vice president of external affairs for Comcast in Washington, said in a statement Thursday.
Since 2011, more than half a million Washington residents have subscribed to the service-protection plan, which covers repairs to customer-owned wiring related to Xfinity TV, voice and internet service.
The suit against Philadelphia-based Comcast, the country’s largest cable company, is a “very significant” consumer-protection case for the state, Ferguson said. The office has settled large consumer lawsuits before, including one with Volkswagen that resulted in the car company paying $26 million to the state because of “deceptive marketing” related to its diesel vehicles.
Ferguson’s office started an investigation into calls involving Comcast’s service-protection plan in 2015, and informed the company at that time.
King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw ordered Comcast in May to turn over a sampling of 1,500 recordings of calls. Comcast said it ended up turning over about 4,500 calls.
The company had already deleted tens of thousands of recordings from the past few years, Ferguson said.
The majority of the recordings that were turned over took place between February and June 2016.
The cable company has argued in court that the state’s claims are baseless and mischaracterize Comcast’s policies.
Bichsel said the attorney general also mischaracterized Comcast’s policies for how long it keeps recordings of calls, saying “any accusation that Comcast deleted calls because of this investigation is just plain wrong.”
A trial date has been set for next July.