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Comcast broke the law 445,000 times to inflate bills

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The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp
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Comcast broke the law 445,000 times to inflate bills

Postby The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:52 am

arstechnica sause
Comcast deception leads to refunds and $9M fine, a fraction of the amount sought.

Comcast yesterday was ordered to refund nearly 50,000 customers and pay a $9.1 million fine when a judge ruled that it violated Washington state consumer protection law hundreds of thousands of times.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Comcast in August 2016, accusing the nation's largest cable company of tricking customers into buying a "near-worthless 'protection plan' without disclosing its significant limitations."


Buying the $5-per-month plan ostensibly prevented customers from having to pay each time a Comcast technician visited their home to fix problems covered by the plan. But in reality, the plan did not cover the vast majority of wiring problems, the AG's lawsuit said. Moreover, Washington state attorneys said that Comcast led customers to believe that they needed to buy a Service Protection Plan (SPP) to get services that were actually covered for free by the company's "Customer Guarantee."

In yesterday's ruling, King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw found that "Comcast violated the Consumer Protection Act more than 445,000 times when it charged tens of thousands of Washingtonians for its Service Protection Plan without their consent," Ferguson's announcement said. Each wrongful monthly charge was a separate violation, so there were multiple violations per customer.

Washington state attorneys sought more than $171 million, asking the judge to order Comcast to pay $88 million in restitution to customers and $83 million in fines.

The $9.1 million fine Comcast was ordered to pay is a fraction of the amount sought by Washington. But Comcast's refunds to customers are separate from the fine, and it's not clear exactly how much they'll amount to.

The AG announcement said:

The court found that Comcast added the SPP to the accounts of 30,946 Washingtonians without their knowledge, and did not tell an additional 18,660 Washingtonians the true cost of the plan. The court ordered Comcast to refund affected consumers, and pay 12 percent interest on the restitution. The amount of restitution is unknown at this time, but is expected to be significant. The court ordered Comcast to issue the refunds within 60 days and report to the state on the specific details and amounts.

Comcast enrolled customers without consent
Comcast violated the consumer protection law "each time it enrolled a Washington consumer in the SPP without their consent and each time it charged a Washington consumer for the SPP following enrollment without consent," the judge wrote.

The judge's ruling further said:

Comcast's unfair or deceptive acts of enrolling Washington consumers in the SPP without their consent, and charging for the SPP following unauthorized enrollment, affected the public interest. Call recordings produced by Comcast show that over one third of Washington SPP customer accounts subscribed via telephone were subscribed to the plan without their consent between July 2014 and June 2016. Pursuant to the parties' stipulation and SPP subscription data produced by Comcast, at least 20,128 customer accounts were subscribed without consent between April 2015 and June 2016 alone (a time period during which Comcast made 71,944 new SPP sales to Washington customers) and 10,818 additional customer accounts were subscribed without consent between July 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. Numerous consumers were injured in the same manner, i.e., they were subscribed to the SPP, and charged for the SPP, without their consent, and Comcast's subscription practices for obtaining affirmative consent remained unchanged from 2011 to mid-2017.

Washington had alleged that Comcast misled 500,000 Washington consumers and deceived them into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over a five-year period. Washington state attorneys argued that Comcast committed 1.8 million violations of the Consumer Protection Act, saying that Comcast made false claims regarding the scope of its service protection plans to 700,000 customers and "deceptively represented the scope of its Customer Guarantee to over 1.17 million Washington consumers."

Ferguson also alleged that "Comcast 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."

Recordings of sales calls showed that Comcast often enrolled customers in the service plan even when customers "explicitly rejected" the offer, Ferguson's office said.

Comcast not saved by arbitration clause
Comcast claimed that the court can't order refunds because of the arbitration clause it puts in customer agreements. But Judge Bradshaw wrote that "[t]he State's authority to seek restitution, however, is not derivative of the rights of the individual customers, but is rather intended to benefit the general public."

The judge didn't accept the AG's request for refunds consisting of all service protection plan revenue. "The restitution amounts contemplated here are the actual improper charges, less prior refunds and service call expenses," the judge's ruling said. The ruling covers service-plan sales between Dec. 25, 2013 and July 1, 2017.

Although yesterday's ruling fell far short of what Washington requested, Ferguson's office said that it still set a record. "The nearly $9.1 million penalty represents the highest trial award in a state Consumer Protection case, even before including restitution," the AG's office said. The previous record was $4.3 million, which was "awarded to the state after a 2016 trial in Ferguson's case against Living Essentials and Innovation Ventures over the company's misrepresentations about 5-hour Energy," the AG's office said.

When the lawsuit was filed, Comcast said it had already fixed the problems raised by the attorney general. But Ferguson said that he filed the lawsuit because negotiations with Comcast didn't produce a big enough settlement.

It's not clear whether Comcast will appeal the ruling, but the company appears to be happy it doesn't owe more.

"We're pleased that the court ruled in our favor on several of the attorney general's key claims and awarded less than 5 percent of what he was seeking in damages," Comcast said in a statement to Ars. "The judge recognized that any issues he did find have since been fully addressed by Comcast through the significant investments we have made in improving the customer experience and consent process, and that throughout Comcast acted in good faith. We will continue to make significant investments in how we serve our customers because it is the right thing to do and are fully committed to our customers in Washington."


Providing a "service" that mostly does nothing, forcing people to add this useless "service" to there plan, only paying a fraction of what they should really pay.

All this and more coming from one of America's top ISPs. That, thanks to the Trump administration appointing Ajit Pai to the head of the FCC, now has the power to not treat all data as equal.

But don't worry, you can totally trust corporations who brake the law 445,000 times to screw you over to not screw you over.

100% trust here guys. They definitely will not abuse this power to make you pay more for the same service you where already getting. Nope. Not at all.

What say you NSG?
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Postby Washington Resistance Army » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:53 am

Hey, AG Bob actually did his job for once, that's good to see.

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Postby Des-Bal » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:53 am

This is a drop in the bucket. Comcast constantly did the exact things Ajit Pai said never happened before net neutrality and they were only stopped by repeated lawsuits.
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Postby Telconi » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:55 am

Did they not file consent forms, or were they forging them?
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Postby The New California Republic » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:57 am

This has an air of mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance about it...
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Postby The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 9:59 am

Telconi wrote:Did they not file consent forms, or were they forging them?


Comcast's unfair or deceptive acts of enrolling Washington consumers in the SPP without their consent, and charging for the SPP following unauthorized enrollment, affected the public interest. Call recordings produced by Comcast show that over one third of Washington SPP customer accounts subscribed via telephone were subscribed to the plan without their consent between July 2014 and June 2016. Pursuant to the parties' stipulation and SPP subscription data produced by Comcast, at least 20,128 customer accounts were subscribed without consent between April 2015 and June 2016 alone (a time period during which Comcast made 71,944 new SPP sales to Washington customers) and 10,818 additional customer accounts were subscribed without consent between July 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. Numerous consumers were injured in the same manner, i.e., they were subscribed to the SPP, and charged for the SPP, without their consent, and Comcast's subscription practices for obtaining affirmative consent remained unchanged from 2011 to mid-2017.


There was no consent at all, just a new 5$ a month charge on there bill. An illegal 5$ a month charge on there bill at that.
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Postby Telconi » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:08 am

The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:
Telconi wrote:Did they not file consent forms, or were they forging them?


Comcast's unfair or deceptive acts of enrolling Washington consumers in the SPP without their consent, and charging for the SPP following unauthorized enrollment, affected the public interest. Call recordings produced by Comcast show that over one third of Washington SPP customer accounts subscribed via telephone were subscribed to the plan without their consent between July 2014 and June 2016. Pursuant to the parties' stipulation and SPP subscription data produced by Comcast, at least 20,128 customer accounts were subscribed without consent between April 2015 and June 2016 alone (a time period during which Comcast made 71,944 new SPP sales to Washington customers) and 10,818 additional customer accounts were subscribed without consent between July 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. Numerous consumers were injured in the same manner, i.e., they were subscribed to the SPP, and charged for the SPP, without their consent, and Comcast's subscription practices for obtaining affirmative consent remained unchanged from 2011 to mid-2017.


There was no consent at all, just a new 5$ a month charge on there bill. An illegal 5$ a month charge on there bill at that.


I find that highly unlikely.
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Postby Des-Bal » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:10 am

Telconi wrote:
I find that highly unlikely.


Yeah if that happened they'd be sued.
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Postby Fartsniffage » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:11 am

Telconi wrote:
The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:


There was no consent at all, just a new 5$ a month charge on there bill. An illegal 5$ a month charge on there bill at that.


I find that highly unlikely.


I'm guessing you've never worked in a call centre? Shit like this happens even in reputable companies due to sales targets.

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Postby Farnhamia » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:11 am

Telconi wrote:
The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:


There was no consent at all, just a new 5$ a month charge on there bill. An illegal 5$ a month charge on there bill at that.


I find that highly unlikely.

Wells Fargo did that sort of thing and paid for it. The Plan was probably buried in the Fine Print and who looks that closely at their bill, anyway? Especially one as involved as a Comcast bill, if you have internet, phone and TV with them.
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Postby The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:11 am

Telconi wrote:
The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:


There was no consent at all, just a new 5$ a month charge on there bill. An illegal 5$ a month charge on there bill at that.


I find that highly unlikely.


No matter how unlikely you think the scenario is, it happened.
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Postby The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:12 am

Des-Bal wrote:
Telconi wrote:
I find that highly unlikely.


Yeah if that happened they'd be sued.


And that's exactly what happened.
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Postby Des-Bal » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:13 am

The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:
And that's exactly what happened.


That would be the joke.
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Postby Telconi » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:14 am

Fartsniffage wrote:
Telconi wrote:
I find that highly unlikely.


I'm guessing you've never worked in a call centre? Shit like this happens even in reputable companies due to sales targets.


I literally sell these things regularly. I find it unlikely that Comcast had no consent mechanism in place for the added charge.
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Postby The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:15 am

Des-Bal wrote:
The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:
And that's exactly what happened.


That would be the joke.

My bad
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Postby Liriena » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:16 am

Although I am a huge fan of Disney stuff, media giants like them and Comcast are monopolistic monstrosities who actively hurt their customers and workers alike.
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Postby Vassenor » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:17 am

But it's totally OK because everyone affected can totally just go to some other ISP...


Oh.
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Postby Telconi » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:19 am

Vassenor wrote:But it's totally OK because everyone affected can totally just go to some other ISP...


Oh.


I mean, they could. But fraud is still bad.
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Postby Vassenor » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:20 am

Telconi wrote:
Vassenor wrote:But it's totally OK because everyone affected can totally just go to some other ISP...


Oh.


I mean, they could. But fraud is still bad.


Oh right I forgot you keep pretending that the ISP business in the U.S. isn't three separate geographically based monopolies.
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Postby Telconi » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:21 am

Vassenor wrote:
Telconi wrote:
I mean, they could. But fraud is still bad.


Oh right I forgot you keep pretending that the ISP business in the U.S. isn't three separate geographically based monopolies.


That's not called pretending, that's called real life.
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Postby Des-Bal » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:21 am

Telconi wrote:
I literally sell these things regularly. I find it unlikely that Comcast had no consent mechanism in place for the added charge.


They did have mechanisms the problem was they weren't using them. I hate talking about court rulings without the rulings so here.

They were using dishonest tactics such as saying the plans were mandatory and quite often just enrolling people without ever having made mention of the existence of the plans.
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Postby Telconi » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:23 am

Des-Bal wrote:
Telconi wrote:
I literally sell these things regularly. I find it unlikely that Comcast had no consent mechanism in place for the added charge.


They did have mechanisms the problem was they weren't using them. I hate talking about court rulings without the rulings so here.

They were using dishonest tactics such as saying the plans were mandatory and quite often just enrolling people without ever having made mention of the existence of the plans.


So the individual salespeople were slam selling. Or so just outright forging consent?
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Postby Ethel mermania » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:26 am

The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:arstechnica sause
Comcast deception leads to refunds and $9M fine, a fraction of the amount sought.

Comcast yesterday was ordered to refund nearly 50,000 customers and pay a $9.1 million fine when a judge ruled that it violated Washington state consumer protection law hundreds of thousands of times.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Comcast in August 2016, accusing the nation's largest cable company of tricking customers into buying a "near-worthless 'protection plan' without disclosing its significant limitations."


Buying the $5-per-month plan ostensibly prevented customers from having to pay each time a Comcast technician visited their home to fix problems covered by the plan. But in reality, the plan did not cover the vast majority of wiring problems, the AG's lawsuit said. Moreover, Washington state attorneys said that Comcast led customers to believe that they needed to buy a Service Protection Plan (SPP) to get services that were actually covered for free by the company's "Customer Guarantee."

In yesterday's ruling, King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw found that "Comcast violated the Consumer Protection Act more than 445,000 times when it charged tens of thousands of Washingtonians for its Service Protection Plan without their consent," Ferguson's announcement said. Each wrongful monthly charge was a separate violation, so there were multiple violations per customer.

Washington state attorneys sought more than $171 million, asking the judge to order Comcast to pay $88 million in restitution to customers and $83 million in fines.

The $9.1 million fine Comcast was ordered to pay is a fraction of the amount sought by Washington. But Comcast's refunds to customers are separate from the fine, and it's not clear exactly how much they'll amount to.

The AG announcement said:

The court found that Comcast added the SPP to the accounts of 30,946 Washingtonians without their knowledge, and did not tell an additional 18,660 Washingtonians the true cost of the plan. The court ordered Comcast to refund affected consumers, and pay 12 percent interest on the restitution. The amount of restitution is unknown at this time, but is expected to be significant. The court ordered Comcast to issue the refunds within 60 days and report to the state on the specific details and amounts.

Comcast enrolled customers without consent
Comcast violated the consumer protection law "each time it enrolled a Washington consumer in the SPP without their consent and each time it charged a Washington consumer for the SPP following enrollment without consent," the judge wrote.

The judge's ruling further said:

Comcast's unfair or deceptive acts of enrolling Washington consumers in the SPP without their consent, and charging for the SPP following unauthorized enrollment, affected the public interest. Call recordings produced by Comcast show that over one third of Washington SPP customer accounts subscribed via telephone were subscribed to the plan without their consent between July 2014 and June 2016. Pursuant to the parties' stipulation and SPP subscription data produced by Comcast, at least 20,128 customer accounts were subscribed without consent between April 2015 and June 2016 alone (a time period during which Comcast made 71,944 new SPP sales to Washington customers) and 10,818 additional customer accounts were subscribed without consent between July 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015. Numerous consumers were injured in the same manner, i.e., they were subscribed to the SPP, and charged for the SPP, without their consent, and Comcast's subscription practices for obtaining affirmative consent remained unchanged from 2011 to mid-2017.

Washington had alleged that Comcast misled 500,000 Washington consumers and deceived them into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over a five-year period. Washington state attorneys argued that Comcast committed 1.8 million violations of the Consumer Protection Act, saying that Comcast made false claims regarding the scope of its service protection plans to 700,000 customers and "deceptively represented the scope of its Customer Guarantee to over 1.17 million Washington consumers."

Ferguson also alleged that "Comcast 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."

Recordings of sales calls showed that Comcast often enrolled customers in the service plan even when customers "explicitly rejected" the offer, Ferguson's office said.

Comcast not saved by arbitration clause
Comcast claimed that the court can't order refunds because of the arbitration clause it puts in customer agreements. But Judge Bradshaw wrote that "[t]he State's authority to seek restitution, however, is not derivative of the rights of the individual customers, but is rather intended to benefit the general public."

The judge didn't accept the AG's request for refunds consisting of all service protection plan revenue. "The restitution amounts contemplated here are the actual improper charges, less prior refunds and service call expenses," the judge's ruling said. The ruling covers service-plan sales between Dec. 25, 2013 and July 1, 2017.

Although yesterday's ruling fell far short of what Washington requested, Ferguson's office said that it still set a record. "The nearly $9.1 million penalty represents the highest trial award in a state Consumer Protection case, even before including restitution," the AG's office said. The previous record was $4.3 million, which was "awarded to the state after a 2016 trial in Ferguson's case against Living Essentials and Innovation Ventures over the company's misrepresentations about 5-hour Energy," the AG's office said.

When the lawsuit was filed, Comcast said it had already fixed the problems raised by the attorney general. But Ferguson said that he filed the lawsuit because negotiations with Comcast didn't produce a big enough settlement.

It's not clear whether Comcast will appeal the ruling, but the company appears to be happy it doesn't owe more.

"We're pleased that the court ruled in our favor on several of the attorney general's key claims and awarded less than 5 percent of what he was seeking in damages," Comcast said in a statement to Ars. "The judge recognized that any issues he did find have since been fully addressed by Comcast through the significant investments we have made in improving the customer experience and consent process, and that throughout Comcast acted in good faith. We will continue to make significant investments in how we serve our customers because it is the right thing to do and are fully committed to our customers in Washington."


Providing a "service" that mostly does nothing, forcing people to add this useless "service" to there plan, only paying a fraction of what they should really pay.

All this and more coming from one of America's top ISPs. That, thanks to the Trump administration appointing Ajit Pai to the head of the FCC, now has the power to not treat all data as equal.

But don't worry, you can totally trust corporations who brake the law 445,000 times to screw you over to not screw you over.

100% trust here guys. They definitely will not abuse this power to make you pay more for the same service you where already getting. Nope. Not at all.

What say you NSG?


Comcast sucks, no shit, the relevant part is they have sucked for decades.

Since I know you can read, and I know you can tell dates, one would think one would be aware that most of the violations in the complaint dates to Obama's presidency, yet I see no blame of his FCC here.

Your problem here isn't trump or Obama for that matter. For the most part what cable operator has a license to act where and how they act is a local issue. If municipalities would not renew the cable franchises of bad actors, cable companies would have more incentive not to break the law. Even here Comcast pays their fine and moves on. Restrict their ability to renew and win franchises in the state, they will clean up their act.
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The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp
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Founded: Dec 18, 2013
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:31 am

Ethel mermania wrote:
The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp wrote:arstechnica sause


Providing a "service" that mostly does nothing, forcing people to add this useless "service" to there plan, only paying a fraction of what they should really pay.

All this and more coming from one of America's top ISPs. That, thanks to the Trump administration appointing Ajit Pai to the head of the FCC, now has the power to not treat all data as equal.

But don't worry, you can totally trust corporations who brake the law 445,000 times to screw you over to not screw you over.

100% trust here guys. They definitely will not abuse this power to make you pay more for the same service you where already getting. Nope. Not at all.

What say you NSG?


Comcast sucks, no shit, the relevant part is they have sucked for decades.

Since I know you can read, and I know you can tell dates, one would think one would be aware that most of the violations in the complaint dates to Obama's presidency, yet I see no blame of his FCC here.

Your problem here isn't trump or Obama for that matter. For the most part what cable operator has a license to act where and how they act is a local issue. If municipalities would not renew the cable franchises of bad actors, cable companies would have more incentive not to break the law. Even here Comcast pays their fine and moves on. Restrict their ability to renew and win franchises in the state, they will clean up their act.



You seemed to miss the point.

The point was, ISP's where already being greedy back before they had the power to be even more greedy.

Trump's FCC did indeed give them the power to be more greedy under the idea of trusting the ISP's to not make us pay more for the same service.

That fine btw, was millions less then what the fine should be.
Last edited by The Derpy Democratic Republic Of Herp on Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Internationalist Bastard » Mon Jun 10, 2019 10:33 am

And no one will be punished
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