Cox pays $3.3M to settle hazardous waste suit in California

Cox Communications
Privately held Atlanta-based cable operator Cox allegedly violated California’s Hazardous Waste Control Law and Unfair Competition Law when it improperly disposed of hazardous batteries, electronic devices and aerosols. (Mike Mozart/CC BY 2.0)

Cox Communications has agreed to pay just over $3.3 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the California attorney general’s office over alleged illegal dumping by the company’s San Diego-area operations. 

Privately held Atlanta-based cable operator Cox allegedly violated California’s Hazardous Waste Control Law and Unfair Competition Law when it improperly disposed of hazardous batteries, electronic devices and aerosols.

The suit was filed (PDF) against Cox last month. In the 32-page complaint, Xavier Becerra’s office alleges that Cox also improperly disposed of customer records, dumping this information without having shredded, erased or otherwise made it unreadable.

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“If a company wants to do business in our state, it must abide by our laws,” State Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “Unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste can lead to serious health and environmental risks. Unlawfully disposing of personal customer information can seriously jeopardize a person’s right to privacy and open the door to identity theft. The California Department of Justice will continue working with state and local agencies to prosecute those who violate our environmental and customer record laws.”

RELATED: Cox says it has reached resolution with California AG over illegal dumping complaint

Alluding to the settlement in an email to Fierce two weeks ago, Cox spokesman Todd Smith said, “This complaint originated five years ago. While we dispute the allegations, we have fully cooperated with the California AG, and have reached a resolution with their office.”

For its part, Cox insisted there was no illegal disclosure of private customer information involved in this complaint. “There was nothing about a data breach in the complaint, nor did one occur,” the operator said. 

The complaint also alleges that Cox improperly disposed of “electronic equipment (such as remote controls, splitters, splitter filters, transformers, power adapters, power supplies, customer premises equipment, amplifiers, taps, traps, network interface cards, multiswitches, field testing equipment, and devices containing printed circuit boards), batteries (such as lead-acid, lithium-ion, nickel-metal hydride, nickel-cadmium and alkaline batteries), scrap metal and aerosol cans, as  well  as  certain gels, liquids and other items used or carried by technicians.”

Cox said it has cooperated fully with the state attorney general and has made changes to make sure all used equipment is now disposed of in accordance with California state law.

“Cox has a longstanding commitment to the communities we serve, and driving positive environmental change—inside our company and within those communities—is one of the most important things we do,” Cox’s statement added.

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