That's the finding of a King County Superior Court judge, who ruled that Comcast violated the Consumer Protection Act more than 445,000 times by charging tens of thousands of Washington residents an extra fee for its Service Protection Plan without their consent, according to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
"Comcast refused to accept responsibility for its egregious conduct that resulted in Washingtonians losing money every month for a product they did not want or request," Ferguson said. "Instead of making things right for Washingtonians, Comcast sent an army of corporate lawyers into court to try to avoid accountability."
Though Ferguson's legal team did in fact win (barring an appeal), the $9.1 million fine is far less than the $171 million original sought, an amount that was split almost evenly between restitution for consumers and penalties.
Even so, the $9.1 million fine is the largest trial award in a state Consumer Protection case. In addition, that figure does not include restitution, which apparently is still being decided on. Previously, the largest penalty of this kind was $4.3 million.
The judge in the case found that Comcast added its protection plan to nearly 31,000 consumer accounts without their knowledge, and failed to tell an additional 18,660 consumers of the true cost of the plan. This practice, known as "slamming," was revealed to the judge's satisfaction in customer call recordings and internal documents.
From July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016, more than a third of enrollees were signed up for the protection plan without their consent, the judge found. In total, Comcast raked in $85 million in gross revenue from Washington alone between 2011 and mid-2016, from charges for the protection plan.
"My legal team demonstrated that we’re capable of meeting the world’s largest corporations in court – and winning. Part of my job is keeping giant corporations honest. Big or small, every business must play by the rules," Ferguson added.