Comcast Marketing and Billing Practices Draw Ire of Minnesota Attorney General

On December 21, 2018, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed a civil suit against telecom provider Comcast/Xfinity in the Hennepin County District Court. Swanson’s complaint alleges that Comcast is liable for fraud by listing prices of Cable Television packages at prices lower than what the customers will actually pay before taxes. 

The lawsuit follows two years of investigations performed by the attorney general. It also follows a similar suit in Massachusetts that recently settled and one in Washington that has gone to trial.

The attorney general alleges that the company has added separate fees to the cost of base packages, beyond what Comcast had informed customers that they would pay each month. The complaint specifically alleges fraud regarding the company’s “Broadcast TV fee” and “Regional Sports fee.” When customers asked about these fees, the company represented that these fees were required by the government; however, Comcast voluntarily imposed these fees.

The complaint also alleges that Comcast falsely advertised base price fees of packages to customers. Customers purchased packages using information Comcast provided regarding the monthly cost of each package. However, customers had to pay more than the advertised cost due to the additional fees Comcast imposed. As a result, Comcast allegedly misrepresented the cost of each of its Cable Television packages when representatives discussed package prices with prospective customers. The complaint cites instances of alleged price misrepresentation during door-to-door sales and sales made over the phone.

Moreover, the complaint alleges that Comcast has been aware that its representatives have misrepresented prices of packages and that customers have become confused about the prices as a result. 

In addition, the attorney general alleges that Comcast added services to customers’ base packages without receiving the customers’ permission. Comcast then charged customers for the additional services. 

The attorney general also alleges that Comcast induced customers to purchase particular packages by promising promotional items. However, after the customer purchased a Comcast package, Comcast did not provide the promotional items. The complaint cites to instances of customers subscribing to Comcast after being promised a prepaid Visa gift card but never receiving the gift card.

In response to the complaint, Comcast spokeswoman Jill Hornbacher stated: “We fully disclose all charges, fees and promotional requirements. The facts do not support the Minnesota Attorney General’s allegations and we’d like nothing more than to work collaboratively with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office; however, they’ve raised complaints about matters that date back several years and have largely ignored our efforts to work together to address them.”

If you have questions about the Minnesota lawsuit or related lawsuits and how you may be affected, please contact Jonathan Marashlian at jsm@commlawgroup.com or at 703-714-1313.

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