Comcast to pay $33M, change policies after releasing customer data

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) will pay $33 million in fines and refunds and change its business practices to settle complaints with the California Department of Justice and the California Public Utilities Commission that it improperly disclosed customer data.

Comcast is accused of publishing names, addresses and phone numbers of customers who signed up for its VoIP service and requested to have their information unlisted. The agencies said the misdeeds occurred over a two-year period.

Under the settlement agreement, Comcast will pay $25 million in fines and reimbursement for investigative services to the two California agencies. The MSO will also refund service fees to about 75,000 customers, giving them an additional $100 each for the trouble caused. The reimbursements and additional monies paid out directly to customers will total $8 million.

Those customers still with Comcast will receive a credit on their cable bill. Comcast will send a check to the last known address for former subscribers. 

"Publishing personal information that should have been unlisted is unlawful and a troubling breach of privacy," said California State Attorney General Kamala Harris in a statement. "This settlement provides meaningful relief to victims (and) brings greater transparency to Comcast's privacy practices."

As part of the settlement negotiated in the Alameda Superior Court, Comcast pledged to improve how it handles customer complaints and strengthen the restrictions it places on how its vendors use customer information. The permanent injunction agreed upon by Comcast stipulates that the MSO provide a "simple, easy-to-read disclose from to all customers explaining the way it uses their information."

"We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Attorney General's office that brings this matter to closure," Comcast said in a statement to FierceCable. "While this matter was operationally resolved nearly three years ago, it has always been our goal to find a solution that works for all parties and for the customers who were impacted by this error. We value and work hard to protect our customers' privacy, and we apologize to anyone who was impacted by this."

For more:
- read this statement from the California State Attorney General
- read this Wall Street Journal story
- read this Reuters story

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