You don’t need us to tell you that Comcast has a bad reputation when it comes to customer service. For seven years in a row Comcast ranked at the bottom of 24/7 Wall St.’s annual customer satisfaction poll. Now the company’s business practices may land it in court.
This week Washington state filed a $100 million lawsuit against Comcast, accusing the company of 1.8 million violations of the the state’s Consumer Protection Act. The state isn’t suing Comcast for bad customer service per se, but for the sorts of misleading claims and practices that have given Comcast such a poor public image. (Comcast denies any wrongdoing.)
The state’s biggest grievance appears to be Comcast’s $4.99-per-month “Service Protection Plan,” which Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson’s office calls “near-worthless.” According to the lawsuit, Comcast promoted the plan as a single-fee program that would cover all service calls, including those that involved in-wall wiring. The catch? Any work on “wires concealed within walls requiring wall fishing” was excluded, an exception the suit says meant customers would still have to pay for most in-wall service calls.
“The plan does not, in fact, cover the vast majority of inside wiring,” the Ferguson’s announcement alleges, adding that customer service scripts given to Comcast representatives deliberately misled customers.
The service’s limitations are now spelled out on the Comcast’s website, but the state claims those changes were made only recently “on the verge of this litigation.” According to the suit, Comcast not only buried the exceptions to the plan in the fine print but failed to give customers a copy of the fine print, or even tell them that the fine print exists.
Comcast disputes that the plan was misleading, saying it covered more than 99 percent of customers’ repair calls.”We worked with the Attorney General’s office to address every issue they raised, and we made several improvements based on their input,” Comcast said in a statement. The company said it was disappointed the attorney general’s office had chosen to sue instead of continuing to work with Comcast. “We stand behind our products and services and will vigorously defend ourselves.”
This isn’t the first time that Ferguson has gone after a telco over deceptive advertising. In 2013, the attorney general’s investigation into T-Mobile concluded that the mobile service provider’s ads promising “no contracts” mislead customers. T-Mobile settled with the state by adding disclaimers about the consequences of canceling your T-Mobile service before you’ve paid off your phone. This time around, Ferguson is looking for more than just a few disclaimers. The lawsuit seeks to have customers’ service call fees refunded and their credit scores revised. (Along with the allegedly misleading service plans, the lawsuit also claims that Comcast damaged customers’ credit scores by running unauthorized credit checks.)
Maybe none of this will make your wait time faster during your next call to Comcast. But it just might make the company take a harder look at its scripts it provides its customer service reps. Bad customer service may not be a crime. But it sure feels like an injustice.
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