Washington expands lawsuit against Comcast over service plan
SEATTLE (AP) – The state of Washington is expanding its pending lawsuit against Comcast, now slamming the cable and internet giant for discarding recorded customer service calls that the attorney general claims is evidence of the company’s alleged deceptive sales practices.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Thursday that his team uncovered more illegal conduct by Comcast as the investigation developed, particularly as the state sought recorded customer service calls.
Philadelphia-based Comcast said it strongly disagrees with Ferguson’s new claims and that his assertions are based on flawed methodology and assumptions. The company said it will continue to vigorously defend itself in court.
“The Service Protection Plan gives those consumers who choose to purchase it great value by covering virtually all service charges over 99% of the time,” Marianne Bichsel, vice president of external affairs for Comcast’s Washington Region, said in a statement.
The initial lawsuit filed in 2016 claimed the company profited from the misleading service protection plan and that Comcast committed more than 1.8 million violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act by charging improper service call fees and using improper credit screening practices.
The state says Comcast initially refused their request for the recorded customer service calls as too burdensome, which launched a court fight. The company eventually turned over a limited sample of those calls but had already deleted tens of thousands of recordings as a matter of routine and wasn’t under any obligation to preserve them. Ferguson claims now that the company knowingly destroyed the evidence because the investigation was already pending, though Comcast called that a mischaracterization of the company’s standard handling of agent call records.
The state said it has analyzed 150 calls so far from the thousands that it will review that were made between Washington customers and Comcast customer service representatives. The state said it found cases where the company charged customers for a service protection plan even if they refused it outright, or would mislead them about the cost. Half of the time, the Comcast employee didn’t even discuss the plan but would charge the customer for it anyway, Ferguson said.
“We’ve now uncovered evidence that many Washingtonians are paying for it without their consent,” Ferguson said.
The state said more than 500,000 people in Washington have paid for the plan, totaling $73 million between 2011 and 2015. It costs $5.99 a month, which is touted as a way to avoid being charged if a technician visits their home to fix an issue covered by the plan.
Ferguson is seeking full restitution for any customer who unknowingly paid for it or feels deceived about the cost or nature of the service. The state is also asking for “significant” civil penalties against Comcast.