Comcast Corp. has agreed to pay nearly $26 million to settle a California investigation into improper disposal of hazardous waste and failure to shred discarded customer records.
California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said the Philadelphia-based cable giant's "careless and unlawful hazardous waste disposal practices jeopardized the health and environmental well-being of California communities and exposed their customers to the threat of identity theft."
The majority of the hazardous waste was electronic equipment: remote controls, splitters, routers, modems, amplifiers, and power adapters.
Comcast, which settled the case without admitting wrongdoing, agreed to improve its practices.
It dispatched the waste to landfills not authorized to receive it, or to recyclers not authorized to handle it, California officials said.
The customer records included names, addresses, and phone numbers.
As part of the settlement - which was disclosed in California on Dec. 15 and must be approved by a state court - Comcast said it would comply with state regulations and hire a firm that would certify that it shredded customer documents.
Comcast also consented to multiple independent audits of its waste-disposal and customer records practices in California.
Spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said Tuesday that Comcast was pleased to close the matter and that the Center City-based company remained "committed to the highest standards of environmental compliance. We have devoted considerable time and resources toward our environmental compliance and have taken a number of steps to improve our practices. We will continue to invest in the education and training of our employees."
Comcast technicians nationally are required to take waste-disposal training annually, and all employees take privacy training every two years to understand how to properly dispose of confidential information, including customer records, Moyer said.
"We have shred bins in our facilities, and we work with qualified shredding companies," she said.
Moyer said that Comcast had not been fined for electronic waste in any other state.
California has been aggressively investigating waste-disposal practices at major corporations. In 2014, AT&T Inc. agreed to pay the state $52 million in civil penalties and environmental compliance for improperly disposing of electric waste at more than 200 warehouses and dispatch centers over nine years.
Wal-Mart, Target, Rite Aid, and CVS agreed to pay a combined $135 million in fines over several years for waste-disposal infractions.
California officials informed Comcast of the investigation in 2012, more than a year into the probe. Officials from the state Attorney General's Office, the Alameda County district attorney, the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the Highway Patrol carried out the investigation.
Based on terms of the settlement, Comcast must pay $19.85 million in civil penalties and costs, $3 million for consumer and environmental initiatives, $2.25 million on airing public service announcements, and $150,000 to make the ads. Comcast also will spend a minimum of $700,000 to enhance its environmental compliance.
Harris said in a statement, "This agreement holds Comcast accountable for breaking the law and puts strict measures in place to prevent them from putting Californians and our environment at risk in the future."