The Minnesota Attorney General's Office said Wednesday that it has settled a deceptive advertising practices lawsuit against Comcast/Xfinity that will lead to several million dollars in relief to more than 30,000 customers.
The settlement includes $1.14 million in refunds for 15,600 Minnesota customers and "debt relief" worth "millions of dollars" for about 16,000 former Comcast patrons, according to the Attorney General's Office. The debt involves early-termination fees that Comcast charged customers after they downgraded or canceled services.
"Part of being able to afford your life means knowing the full cost of what you're getting, getting what you were promised, not being overcharged for things you didn't ask for, and not being unfairly charged to get rid of things you didn't ask for," Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. "But when people signed up for Comcast, that's what happened to them."
In a statement, Comcast said the settlement "reflects our ongoing efforts to improve the customer experience. While we disagree with the allegations initially made in the lawsuit — which do not reflect our policies and practices — we agreed to settle because we are committed to partnering with Attorney General Ellison and others who share our commitment to improving the experience of our customers in all respects."
Former Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson sued the cable and internet behemoth in Hennepin County District Court in December 2018, alleging that Comcast quietly raised fees after wooing customers with low rates, tacked unwanted services and equipment onto bills and failed to send promotional Visa gift cards.
Under the settlement, Minnesota customers who didn't get a prepaid gift card as promised — because Comcast didn't record that they had accepted service terms between Jan. 1, 2013, and July 1, 2017 — will be issued refunds.
Also eligible for refunds are customers who downgraded their cable service — or had their service cut off — and paid an early-termination fee between June 1, 2015, and July 1, 2017; and consumers who were charged for a modem after subscribing to a cable package that included internet service, but returned that modem within three months without otherwise changing their service between Jan. 1, 2014, and July 1, 2017.
Comcast must also pay $160,000 to the Attorney General's Office, which can be used toward refunds and settlement administration costs. Philadelphia-based Comcast is also required to change its advertising practices to alert customers to the full price they pay when billed.
Comcast in the past did not always disclose extra fees that were charged on top of the advertised price, according to the Attorney General's Office.
The AG's office said the company has already identified who is eligible for a refund and will be contacting consumers.
Comcast customers who believe they were overbilled for services they didn't request — or who were not provided a Visa gift card as promised — can also go the attorney general's website for information, or call the office at 651-296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787.
The Comcast deal comes a week after Ellison's office announced a settlement with CenturyLink, a major telecom and internet service provider, regarding alleged overcharges and faulty billing practices. CenturyLink disputed the allegations but agreed to pay $8.9 million to more than 12,000 customers.
Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003