A judge will likely announce next week whether a potentially very costly lawsuit against Comcast can go to trial.
King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw heard testimony last week from Comcast lawyers and those from the office of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who have sued the MSO for $100 million, alleging the cable company’s service protection plan is basically a scam.
The AG's office filed the suit in August. And in October, Comcast asked Judge Bradshaw to throw it out—the request he’s currently considering. If he doesn’t, the case will be set for trial next summer, and it could cost Comcast a lot more than $100 million.
The case’s recent developments were originally reported on by tech blog Geekwire.
The Washington AG alleged that Comcast violated the state Consumer Protection Act on 1.8 million occasions, promoting a $4.99-a-month service protection plan that offered far less coverage than advertised.
The AG said that the plan purported to cover problems with cables inside the home without revealing the plan’s limitations. The AG said around 500,000 state residents paid about $73 million between January 2011 and June 2016 for the allegedly bogus service plan.
“If you say one thing but you provide another, a reasonable person is going to believe the thing that you actually told them is what you are providing,” Washington Assistant Attorney General Daniel Davies said in testimony.
As Geekwire noted, Comcast has assembled an experienced legal team to defend itself, led by former SEC litigation chief Matthew Martens, now working for Washington, D.C. firm WilmerHale. The team also includes Comcast’s lead attorney in Seattle, Mark Bartlett, who spent 25 years in the state’s Attorney General’s office.
“To provide 99% coverage and disclose your exceptions on the website is deception? That is the (attorney general’s) theory, and that theory makes no sense,” Martens said.
For Comcast, the price of losing could be much greater than even $100 million. Violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act carry a $2,000 fine. Multiply that by 1.8 million and you get a hefty $3.6 billion fine.
Then there’s the potential that other states within Comcast’s footprint could sue over the service protection plan, which has been deployed nationally.