Comcast must pay a $9.1 million fine and refund thousands of customers for breaking Washington state’s consumer protection law more than 445,000 times, a judge ruled last week.
A Washington Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Comcast charged tens of thousands of state residents for its “Service Protection Plan” without their consent.
Comcast charged $5.99 per month for the plan that allowed customers to avoid charges for certain service visits. Between 2011 and mid-2016, Comcast earned more than $85 million in gross revenue from Washington alone in monthly fees for the protection plan, according to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.
More than a third of Washington customers enrolled in the plan by phone were signed up without consent between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2016, the judge found. In addition, Comcast failed to disclose the plan’s recurring charges to customers, according to the lawsuit filed in August 2016.
“Comcast refused to accept responsibility for its egregious conduct that resulted in Washingtonians losing money every month for a product they did not want or request,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement.
The $9.1 million penalty is the largest trial award in a Washington consumer protection case, but it’s a fraction of the $100 million sought by the state. Ferguson had accused Comcast of more than 1.8 million violations, including claims that the company’s protection plan was “near-worthless.” However, the evidence presented at the trial did not support those claims, the judge ruled.
Comcast stopped selling the protection plan to new customers in 2018 and has implemented technologies that require consent from consumers before they can be enrolled in any service, according to the ruling.
“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. “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.”
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