Comcast: Charging Customers More Than Advertised Price Isn’t False Advertising

Despite consistently offering some of the fastest average speeds in many markets, Comcast remains one of the most hated companies in America. The media and telecommunications giant is known for slapping its customers with hidden fees and is one of the most vocal opponents of net neutrality, even (allegedly) resorting to dirty tactics in its efforts to seize control of the web. Now, Comcast could be in legal trouble thanks to a class-action lawsuit in California which alleges the company has been overcharging customers by hiding extra fees in their monthly bills.

The lawsuit, originally filed in October 2016 in a US District Court in Northern California, took another major step forward this week. It alleges that Comcast uses false advertising and hidden fees to charge customers more than the prices agreed upon in their advertised prices. The lawsuit claims Comcast is using a form of false advertising in order to lure customers into signing contracts, after which the telecom giant tacks on extra hidden fees which add up to hundreds of dollars each year. According to the class-action lawsuit, Comcast has hidden fees they call the “Broadcast TV Fee,” which has increased from $1.50 a month in 2014 to $6.50 today, and a fee known as a “Regional Sports Fee” that has risen from $1 to $4.50 since 2015. Comcast has increased the fees even for customers who signed multi-year contracts for fixed monthly rates, sneaking in the fee increases after signing.

Comcast alleges that the hidden fees are included under their “Subscriber Agreement” and “Minimum Term Agreement” that are included in their contract, but these do not specifically state that the media giant will charge a Regional Sports Fee or Broadcast TV fee.

Comcast attempted to persuade US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria to dismiss the suit, but yesterday, Chhabria rejected the plea, writing:

The plaintiffs plausibly allege that they never saw this agreement at the time they submitted their order for services and have never consented to it. It is also plausible to infer from the complaint that Comcast breached its agreements with the plaintiffs when it sent them bills charging them Broadcast TV and/or Regional Sports Fees (alleged to be neither taxes nor government-related fees) in excess of the agreed-upon price, and when it subsequently sought to raise the amount of the fees.

The class-action lawsuit will now proceed. Knowing how the U.S. legal system treats huge corporations, however, it’s unlikely Comcast will walk away with anything more than the corporate equivalent of a slap on the wrist.