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Washington state judge keeps alive $3B consumer lawsuit against Comcast

A Washington state judge has declined to throw out a lawsuit filed by that state's attorney general that claims Comcast Corp. deceived customers with its "Comcast Guarantee" and violated consumer-protection laws almost two million times.

The lawsuit, filed last summer by Washington's attorney general, Bob Ferguson, claims a potential penalty against Comcast of $3.6 billion.

Comcast sought to dismiss the case, but King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw decided last month that the litigation can advance to discovery, court documents show.

On Wednesday, Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Moyer said Ferguson's suit "fails to demonstrate violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, and in fact acknowledges that our customers have saved millions of dollars in avoided service charges with our Service Protection Plan."

The nation's largest cable TV and residential internet provider, Comcast has some of the lowest customer-satisfaction ratings of any American company, and that discontent played a part in federal regulators' 2015 rejection of its proposed $45 billion deal to merge with Time Warner Cable.

Comcast has said it will improve its customer-service operations by hiring thousands of new technicians and customer-call representatives. Telecommunications companies such as Comcast typically rank low on customer-satisfaction surveys.

Among other claims, Ferguson's lawsuit says Comcast "grossly misrepresented" its Service Protection Plan and violated the state's Consumer Protection Act. The suit says that the protection plan is presented as "comprehensive" coverage to wiring repairs inside a home, but that it does not include wiring within the walls of a home.

"Likewise," the suit says, "although Comcast claimed the [Service Protection Plan] covers all service calls related to customer-owned equipment, it does not cover any actual repairs relating to customer equipment. It simply covers the technician visiting the customer's house and declaring that the customer's equipment is broken."

The "Comcast Guarantee" states the company won't charge customers for technician calls for broken Comcast equipment. But the company charged thousands of Washington subscribers for those calls, the suit says. Comcast has about 1.2 million subscribers in that state.

In its motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Comcast lawyers said the Washington Attorney General's Office consistently ignored evidence gathered in a multiyear investigation.

A spokesman for the Washington Office of Attorney General declined to say how many years the agency had probed Comcast's consumer practices.