There are all kinds of ways that big businesses rip off their customers, and Billshark wants to alert you to as many as we can. Often the deception is hidden under such amorphous—and seemingly innocuous—tags as “service fee” or “service protection plan.”
Case in point: In August of last year, the state of Washington sued cable giant Comcast for what it alleged was the deceptive practice of offering a Service Protection Plan (SPP)—at a cost of $4.99 a month—that, in fact, covered very little. It says that, although the plan covered the cost of a service technician’s visit, it does not cover “any actual repairs relating to customer equipment.”
On December 23, a King County (WA) Superior Court judge rejected Comcast’s Motion To Dismiss (MTD) the Washington lawsuit.
Comcast had sought dismissal on the grounds that Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson had failed 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.”
For his part, Ferguson termed the SPP “near-worthless” and said the state’s investigation revealed that 75% of the time Comcast representatives followed a Comcast script that told its employees to say the SPP covered “wiring inside your home,” when in fact it doesn’t. The suit claims more than 500,000 customers were “misled.”
Ferguson also alleged that Comcast misled customers by telling them the SPP covered repairs outside of the home, when customers are already exempt from having to pay for such exterior repairs.
“This case is a classic example of a big corporation deceiving its customers for financial gain,” Ferguson said.
If the $100 million lawsuit is successful, it could open the door to other similar suits nationwide, because this plan isn’t just specific to Washington state, but is offered throughout the country in areas where Comcast is located.
Another part of the suit relates to Comcast’s practice of requiring a deposit on equipment which they say is waived if the customer allows Comcast to conduct a credit check and the check reveals they have good credit. Ferguson alleges that more than 6,000 times, Washington customers with high credit scores were still required to pay a deposit, or that those who paid a deposit still had their credit checked. Such unnecessary checks can negatively impact customers’ credit scores.
The lawsuit is seeking $73 million to pay back payments to customers who paid for the SPP, and removal of the improper credit checks from customers’ credit reports. It’s also seeking up to $2,000 for each instance of a violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act.
“The court correctly rejected Comcast’s attempt to evade responsibility for deceiving its customers,” Ferguson said. “Washington consumers deserve their day in court.”
Watch this space for further updates on the outcome of this case. Meanwhile, let Billshark help you find ways such as this to save on your bills.