Last week, a judge in Washington State denied Comcast’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by that state’s attorney general, accusing Comcast of “engaging in a pattern of deceptive practices” with its Service Protection Plan. The lawsuit accuses Comcast of over 1.8 million violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act stemming from its $4.99 per month Service Protection Plan (SPP), which Comcast advertised as a way for customers to avoid paying for service calls if there was a problem with their Comcast service.
Comcast advertised that customers would “[E]njoy worry-free maintenance of all inside wiring for your cable TV, highspeed Internet and phone services.” and “Enjoy knowing you’re covered for service calls related to customer-owned equipment connected to Comcast services […].”
Despite Comcast’s promises of comprehensive coverage, the lawsuit alleges, the SPP covers only a narrow scope of repairs. For example, Comcast advertised that SPP covers all “inside wiring,” but actually excludes wiring inside the walls of a residence—which is where most wiring inside a home is located.
Additionally, the lawsuit says, Comcast claimed the SPP covers all service calls related to customer-owned equipment. But, in reality, it does not cover any actual repairs to the customer’s equipment—it only covers a technician visiting the customer’s house and telling them their equipment is broken.
Comcast also marketed the SPP as covering service calls relating to Comcast equipment and wiring outside a customer’s house. But, the lawsuit points out, those issues are already covered for free under Comcast’s Customer Guarantee, which states: “We won’t charge you for a service visit that results from a Comcast equipment or network problem.”
Given all these exclusions and limitations, the lawsuit concludes that “the SPP often ends up failing to cover any repairs at all.”
Between January 2013 through July 2015, Washington consumers paid Comcast $41.6 million in subscription fees for the SPP. But, the lawsuit says, “Washington consumers avoided only approximately $5 million in service call charges by subscribing to the SPP.” Thus, in 2.5 years, Comcast earned approximately $36.6 million from a service that covers not much at all.
Moreover, the lawsuit says that Comcast has charged thousands of Washington customers for service calls that resulted from a Comcast equipment or network problem—even though it’s supposed to be free under its Comcast’s Customer Guarantee. In fact, the lawsuit alleges, “Comcast provided its technicians with a service call fix code that expressly allowed them ‘to add service charges to a normally not charged fix code.'” That code was supposed to be used “when customer refuses customer guarantee.” But, the lawsuit says, “no customer would intentionally refuse the Customer Guarantee” and agree to be charged for something that is otherwise free.
The Attorney General is asking for a refund of $73 million in SPP fees, plus $1 million for service call charges that should have been free, and up to $2,000 for each of Comcast’s 1.8 million alleged violations of the Consumer Protection Act.
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