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‘Pattern of deceptive practices’ prompts state to sue Comcast

Attorney General Bob Ferguson will announce a $100-million lawsuit against Comcast Monday. (AP)

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit Monday morning against cable television and internet provider Comcast in King County Superior Court.

The $100-million lawsuit alleges that the company’s own documents reveals a “pattern of illegally deceiving their customers to pad their bottom line by tens of millions of dollars.”

The lawsuit includes more than 1.8 million violations of Washington state’s Consumer Protection Act. That includes misrepresenting the scope of its Service Protection Plan. The lawsuit alleges that the company charges customers improper service-call fees and have improper credit-screening practices. Additionally, the lawsuit accuses Comcast of violating the CPA to all of its more than one million Washington customers due to its “deceptive Comcast Guarantee.”

“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain,” Ferguson said. “I won’t allow Comcast to continue to put profits above customers — and the law.”

GeekWire reports that Beth Hester, vice president of external affairs for Comcast in Washington, said the company is “surprised and disappointed” by the lawsuit.

“The Service Protection Plan has given those Washington consumers who chose to purchase it great value by completely covering over 99% of their repair calls,” Hester said. “We worked with the Attorney General’s office to address every issue they raised, and we made several improvements based on their input. Given that we were committed to continue working collaboratively with the Attorney General’s office, we’re surprised and disappointed that they have instead chosen litigation. We stand behind our products and services and will vigorously defend ourselves.”

The lawsuit alleges that Comcast misled 500,000 customers, deceiving them into paying at least $73 million in subscription fees over five years for a “near-worthless” protection plan. Customers who used the protection plan pay a $4.99 monthly fee to avoid being charged if a Comcast technician visits their home to fix an issue covered in the plan.

Though Comcast said the plan covered the cost of all service calls, it did not appropriately disclose that the plan does not cover repairs to any “wall-fished” wiring, which is wiring inside a wall. The lawsuit points out that is a majority of wiring inside homes.

The lawsuit also alleges that Comcast has charged fees to non-Service Protection Plan subscribers for services that should have been free.

“Contrary to this promise, Comcast charged thousands of Washington customers for service calls that resulted from a Comcast equipment or network problem, including issues with Comcast HDMI and component cables, Comcast cable cards, and the installation of drop amplifiers, which fix Comcast signal problems,” a statement from the Attorney General’s Officer says.

The AG’s Office seeks more than $70 million in restitution, as well as removing improper credit checks from credit reports of more than 6,000 customers. The lawsuit also seeks up to $2,000 per violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

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