Comcast accused of not doing an inside job

by Steve Blum •

Getting ready for the service call.

What, exactly, is inside wiring? That is the $3.6 billion question facing Comcast in Seattle. The Washington attorney general is accusing Comcast of offering a bogus $5 a month service plan and wants a King County judge to impose the maximum fine – $2,000 each for the 1.8 million violations of the state’s consumer protection law.

According to a story in Geekwire by Nat Levy

The lawsuit alleges that Comcast marketed the service plan to customers as a “comprehensive” option that promised to cover service calls without additional fees.

But the lawsuit alleges the plan only covered a narrow scope of repairs and many customers ended up paying for repairs and technicians’ visits that they thought would have been covered by the plan. The complaint alleges Comcast charged thousands of customers for service calls related to its own equipment or network problems.

The marquee accusation is that Comcast’s service plan claimed to cover “inside wiring”, which it defines as the wiring between the terminal mounted on the outside wall of a subscriber’s home and the outlet jacks where they plug in equipment like set top boxes and telephones.

Except.

Except, wiring that’s inside a wall isn’t covered. So if there’s a problem and the service tech figures out that it’s a problem with the inside wiring but the wiring is too far inside, the customer is told that it’ll cost extra to fix.

Comcast’s defense is that the attorney general hasn’t produced anyone who was actually harmed by the fine print. The judge is expected to decide this week whether he’s going to throw the case out, or let it go to trial, which would likely happen next summer. If the consumer fraud theory flies in Washington though, other states in Comcast’s footprint are likely follow. Comcast’s inside-inside exception could prove very costly.