Geez Bob, aren't you ready to go on the holiday break yet?
another a press conference held this morning at the Attorney General's downtown Seattle headquarters, AG Bob Ferguson announced that his office had uncovered new evidence in a $73 million act of deception from Comcast.
The details of this are actually quite fascinating, and if you've got a minute, you should totally pull up your Comcast bill to see if you've been paying $5.99 a month for a "Service Protection Plan" or SPP.
The AG's office has been embroiled in litigation with Comcast over customer service protection plans since 2016, when the state filed a lawsuit claiming that these plans violated state consumer protection laws. Comcast advertises these plans—which last year amounted to $4.99—as "comprehensive." That ostensibly means that under these plans, Comcast takes care of service calls regarding problems with both inside wiring and Comcast products. Thing is, while Comcast claims to cover "inside wiring," the company doesn't actually cover repairs for wiring inside walls. This, obviously, is where most wiring is inside people's homes.
So the AG's contention has been that the service protection plan is bullshit. (I'm paraphrasing here.) But the state lawyers also wanted to see how many people had been signed up for the plan—or were even aware of it.
To find out, the AG's office requested all calls setting up service between customers and Comcast to see how many people were told about the plan and its recurring charges. Comcast refused, saying this request was too burdensome, and the AG's office narrowed their request to a sample. Eventually, the King County Superior Court issued an order forcing the company to furnish a sample. According to the AG's office, it turns out 90 percent of those original calls were deleted anyway.
Of the 150 calls in the sample, half of the customers weren't even told about the plan, but were charged for it anyway. In the other half, two people explicitly refused the plan, the AG's office says, and were charged, too.
It may just be $5.99 a month, but collectively, the plans add up to $73 million charged from Washington consumers between 2011 and 2015.
"It should not take a lawsuit like this, and hours and hours of work by my legal team, to force a company to treat its customers fairly," AG Ferguson said this morning.
This, of course, looks very good for Ferguson, who is distinguishing himself, particularly through his consumer protection division, as champions of the little guy. Could he have political ambitions?
"Comcast was putting profits before people," Ferguson told reporters today. "I'm only more convinced that's the case. And to be clear to Comcast, I'm only more determined to hold them accountable."
If you've got a minute, take a look at your Comcast bill, and if you think you didn't sign up for the service protection plan—or were signed up explicitly against your wishes—Bob Ferguson is urging you to file a complaint here.
Update: Marianne Bichsel, spokesperson for Comcast, says the Service Protection Plan "virtually all service charges over 99% of the time."
"The Attorney General’s new assertions are largely based on a flawed methodology and assumptions, and today’s press conference misrepresented the facts," Bichsel said in a statement. "In fact, the court flatly rejected the AG’s mischaracterization of Comcast’s routine handling of agent call records. We will continue to vigorously defend this in court.”