Comcast has agreed to mete out about $1.14 million as part of a settlement with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison stemming from a lawsuit filed in late 2018 claiming that the operator had overcharged thousands of customers in the state.
According to the consent judgement (PDF), made public Wednesday and involving more than 30,000 customers, Comcast will also alter its advertising practices to ensure the company is clearer in how it explains various service charges for residential services, including regional sport network and local broadcast TV fees. The settlement also resolves the AG's allegations that Comcast promised prepaid gift cards as a way to entice customers to enter multi-year contracts, then failed to provide those cards.
Comcast will also pay $160,000 to the Minnesota Attorney General's Office, which can also be used to provide refunds to consumers.
The refunds will go to the following:
- Minnesota customers that didn't receive prepaid gift cards because Comcast didn't record that they had accepted the terms of service between January 1, 2013, through July 2017.
- Minnesota consumers who downgraded their cable services or who Comcast cut off from services and who paid an early termination fee between June 1, 2015 and July 1, 2017.
- Minnesota consumers who were charged for a modem after subscribing to a cable package that included Internet service but returned the modem within three months without otherwise changing their package between January 1, 2014 through July 1, 2017.
Among examples of those in line for refunds, customers and former customers are in line to receive an $80 refund if they involuntarily disconnected service or voluntarily downgraded residential services and, as a result, paid an early termination fee.
Comcast has also agreed to "wipe clean" the debt for about 16,000 former customers who were charged an early termination fee after they downgraded or canceled services while locked into a contract.
Comcast has agreed to send a claim form to all eligible customers and provide a refund check within 60 days after the claims period has closed.
"This settlement will help put money back in Comcast's customers' pockets where it should have been in the first place," Ellison said in a statement. "Just as importantly, it provides millions of dollars' worth of debt relief. And we've made sure that going forward, Comcast customers will know exactly how much they'll pay for service before they sign up for it. That should put an end to unpleasant surprises."
Comcast said it disagrees with the initial lawsuit claims but agreed to settle as part of broader customer-focused initiatives.
"Today's settlement with the Minnesota Attorney General reflects our ongoing efforts to improve the customer experience," Comcast said in an emailed statement. "While we disagree with the allegations initially made in the lawsuit -- which do not reflect our policies and practices -- we agreed to settle because we are committed to partnering with Attorney General Ellison and others who share our commitment to improving the experience of our customers in all respects. We believe this settlement agreement furthers that shared goal."
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading