The Washington Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against internet and cable company Comcast, alleging more than 1.8 million violations of the Washington state Consumer Protection Act and seeks over $100 million in penalties as well as injunctive relief. The Washington Attorney General’s Office says that the lawsuit is the “first of its kind in the nation,” noting that many of the alleged deceptive practices involve nationwide programs.
The claims stem from the company’s Service Protection Plan, the fees it charges customers for service calls, and its practices of running credit checks on certain customers. The suit alleges that Comcast “grossly misrepresented” the Service Protection Plan, which is an optional add-on that customers may purchase to allow them to avoid certain service fees. The Attorney General claims that while Comcast advertised that the Plan provided comprehensive coverage, the Plan in fact only applies to a narrow scope of repairs. For instance, while advertising that the Plan covers “inside wiring,” the Plan does not cover wiring inside the walls of a consumer’s home. Similarly, Comcast advertises coverage of certain problems that are already covered for free by the Comcast Customer Guarantee. The complaint notes that over 500,000 Washington residents subscribed to the Plan in the past five years, and have paid at least $73 million to Comcast during that time.
The complaint further alleges that customers were improperly charged for service fees that should have been covered for free by the Comcast Customer Guarantee. The complaint notes that until June 2015, Comcast provided its technicians with a service code that allowed them “to add service charges to a normally not charged fix code.”
Finally, the complaint accuses Comcast of improperly charging deposits or running credit checks on more than 6,000 customers.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson stated in a press release, “This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain.”
Among other things, the lawsuit highlights the importance of having meaningful communication with the Attorney General’s Office. The Washington A.G. noted in its press release that it brought up concerns with Comcast over a year before filing the action, but stated that the company did not make any internal changes until litigation was imminent.
Members of Troutman Sanders’ Regulatory Compliance and Investigations Group have experience providing advice and assisting businesses engaged with attorney general investigations.