Comcast has agreed to issue refunds to 15,600 customers and cancel the debts of another 16,000 people to settle allegations that the cable company lied to customers in order to hide the true cost of service. Comcast will have to pay $1.3 million in refunds.
The settlement with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, announced yesterday, resolves a lawsuit filed by the state against Comcast in December 2018.
“Together, the refunds and debt relief are worth millions of dollars,” Ellison’s announcement said. “The settlement also requires Comcast to change its advertising practices to disclose to its customers the full amount that they will be charged for service.”
The attorney general’s lawsuit alleged that Comcast “charged Minnesota consumers more than it promised it would for their cable services, including undisclosed ‘fees’ that the company used to bolster its profits, and that it charged for services and equipment that customers did not request,” the settlement announcement said. Comcast also “promised [customers] prepaid gift cards as an inducement to enter into multi-year contracts, then failed to provide the cards,” Minnesota alleged.
Refunds to the 15,600 customers will total $1.14 million. Comcast must also pay another $160,000 to the state attorney general’s office, which can use any or all of that amount to provide additional refunds. That brings the total amount Comcast will pay to $1.3 million.
The debt relief won’t require Comcast to pay anything more, but it will benefit customers. The announcement said:
In addition to refunds, Comcast will wipe clean the debt for approximately 16,000 former customers that Comcast charged an early termination fee after they downgraded or canceled their services while they were locked into a contract. It will notify the credit bureaus that the debt was satisfied so that it no longer affects those customers’ credit history.
The consent judgment was filed in Hennepin County District Court. Minnesota alleged violations of the state’s Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, but Comcast did not admit any wrongdoing.
About 8,400 customers are eligible for refunds of $80 each because they did not receive Visa prepaid cards or other promotional items that they were promised, according to the settlement. Customers are eligible for this refund if they suffered this problem between January 1, 2013 and July 1, 2017.
About 2,000 customers who were charged for a modem but returned the modem within three months will get refunds “in the amount of all modem charges paid by such consumers before returning the modem to Comcast,” the settlement says. This applies to customers between January 1, 2014, and July 1, 2017.
Another 5,200 customers who “were involuntarily disconnected or who voluntarily downgraded their Residential Services, and, as a result, paid an Early Termination Fee to Comcast” will get $80 refunds. This applies to customers between June 1, 2015 and July 1, 2017.
“Part of being able to afford your life means knowing the full cost of what you’re getting, getting what you were promised, not being overcharged for things you didn’t ask for, and not being unfairly charged to get rid of things you didn’t ask for. But when people signed up for Comcast, that’s what happened to them,” Ellison said.
Comcast has already identified the 16,000 customers who will get debt relief, the settlement says. Comcast is required to forgive their debts within 30 days.
How to get refunds
Comcast has identified the 15,600 customers who are due refunds and is required to send them claims forms via email or paper mailing within 45 days. Once customers receive the notice, they will have 90 days to complete and return the claim forms. After that 90-day period is over, Comcast will have 60 days to issue the refunds.
If you’re a Comcast customer in Minnesota and don’t receive a claims form, you may still be able to get a refund by filling out this form on the attorney general’s website. This online claims form allows refunds for a wider range of customers because it covers the period from December 21, 2012, to the present. Comcast customers in Minnesota can fill out this form “if they were charged for services and equipment they did not request, were charged more for services than they agreed to pay, or did not receive a promotional item that was promised to them.”