Comcast has to defend its bill at will tactics in court

by Steve Blum •

Customer service.

A federal judge in San Francisco said that two northern California men have a legitimate case to make against Comcast, as they pursue a class action suit aimed at stopping Comcast from piling fees on subscribers anytime it feels like it. Dan Adkins and Christopher Robertson say they signed up for an advertised deal, and Comcast can’t change it without their consent.

Judge Vince Chhabria (no typo, that’s how he spells it) said that, depending on the facts, they have a makable case and Comcast will have to fight it out in court

It is plausible to infer from the complaint that, by clicking “Submit Your Order,” Adkins and Robertson agreed to pay Comcast’s advertised price, plus taxes and government-related fees, in exchange for the services Comcast offered them. It is also plausible to infer from the complaint that Comcast breached its agreements with the plaintiffs when it sent them bills charging them Broadcast TV and/or Regional Sports Fees (alleged to be neither taxes nor government-related fees) in excess of the agreed-upon price, and when it subsequently sought to raise the amount of the fees.

Comcast’s first line of defence was that it’s entitled to add pretty much anything it wants to monthly bills, since subscribers agree to its terms – that no one ever reads – which reference a second set of terms, that no one ever sees. Chhabria wasn’t buying it…

The “Pricing & Other Info” disclosure tells the customer they will be charged the “extra” fees and that such fees are “subject to change,” but Comcast subsequently tells customers that the advertised price is the “base monthly total of all recurring charges.” These statements point in different directions.

Robertson and Adkins, and the millions of Comcast customers who might be pulled along as part of the class action, haven’t won anything yet. All the judge is saying that there’s enough on the table to justify going to trial, and that’s where it’s headed.