Comcast unable to get $100M Washington suit thrown out

Comcast Center headquarters in Philadelphia. Image: Comcast
Comcast’s attempt to overturn a $100 million suit has been rejected.

A Washington state judge has rejected Comcast’s bid to throw out a $100 million suit filed against it by the local Attorney General’s office.

Rendering his ruling just before the holidays, King County Superior Court Judge Timothy Bradshaw denied the company’s motion to dismiss the case in a one-page ruling. Comcast had called Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit a “profound mischaracterization of Comcast’s actual business practices” in its motion to dismiss the case.

It was a key roadblock to the case actually going to a trial, which would begin on July 31. The news comes courtesy of Geekwire, which has been closely tracking the case. 

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“As we’ve said, this lawsuit fails to demonstrate violations of the Washington Consumer Protection Act,” said Beth Hester, VP of external affairs for Comcast in Washington. “We continue to believe the claims have no basis in either law or fact, and we look forward to proving that as we move forward with this case. With over 99% of all repair calls resolved at no charge to customers, our Service Protection Plan has covered millions of dollars in service call fees that they otherwise would have had to pay—and the Attorney General’s lawsuit acknowledges our customers have saved millions of dollars in avoided service charges.” ​

Ferguson’s office filed the suit in August. And in October, Comcast asked Judge Bradshaw to throw it out, which didn’t happen. 

Ferguson and his team say 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.

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. 

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.