Comcast is the second-largest cable television and broadcasting company in the world. The American giant markets consumer cable television, wireless, telephone, and internet services under the Xfinity brand. Comcast operates under various subsidiary companies. It’s had its share of complaints and legal issues, stemming from allegations of unfair labor practices to overcharging customers on bills for services they didn’t ask to receive. Comcast and its subsidiaries have been sued for billions of dollars through the years, with settlements ranging from a few million dollars to as much as $10 billion for its offenses. Here are the ten biggest Comcast lawsuits of all time.
10. NBC Universal Inc sued for $7.21 million for racial discrimination in labor practices Settlement amount: $7.21 million
NBC Universal, a subsidiary of Comcast, was accused of racial discrimination in the Brand et al v. Comcast Corporation, Inc. lawsuit. The communications giant allegedly created an environment of unfair performance evaluations tolerating racist comments and poor work conditions. The lawsuit was filed in private civil litigation in a federal Northern District of Illinois Court in 2011. Plaintiffs shared that managers called them thugs, dumb black people, and ghetto techs. The claims go back to 2005. The lawsuit resulted in Comcast’s agreement to a settlement of $7.21 million. $50,000 in claims were directed to twelve plaintiffs with $3 million awarded for attorney racial discrimination.
9. NBC Universal, a subsidiary of Comcast sued for employment-related offenses in New York Penalty amount: $7,400,000
NBC Universal was accused of obtaining free work from interns who were pressured to give free hours to the company with the threat of being blacklisted in their chosen professions if they were viewed as troublemakers. Interns were forced to work for free at NBC Universal to get their foot in the door in a highly competitive work environment. The case was settled in 2015 with NBC Universal Inc ordered to pay a penalty of $6.4 million in compensation to interns affected by the workplace duress. The civil case was filed under Moore et al v. NBC Universal, Inc. in the Southern District of New York Court under the wage and hour violation heading.
8. Comcast workers sue for wage and hour damages Settlement amount: $7.5 million
BMCC Law confirms that California Comcast workers filed a lawsuit against the company for violations of federal and California labor laws. They alleged that Comcast denied workers meal breaks and failed to pay them minimum wages and for overtime hours worked. Technicians worked up to 60 hours weekly. They were required to purchase their tools without reimbursement for the expenses. Comcast failed to provide them with itemized wage statements that were accurate, resulting in violations of California labor laws. Some 4,500 Comcast workers who installed internet and security, cable, phone, and television services were affected by the illegal labor practices. The lawsuit filed in January 2017 dragged on for two years before the court made its final ruling. Comcast was ordered to pay $7.5 million to settle the lawsuit, and additionally, change its practices to prevent the violations from happening again.
7. Comcast sued in a class-action lawsuit for unlawful rent charges Settlement amount: $15.5 million
Biz Journal confirms that a class-action lawsuit was filed against Comcast for unlawfully charging premium cable subscribers for rent on set-top boxes. The suit included consumers in West Virginia, Washington, and California with potentially 3.5 million class members affected by Comcast’s actions. Comcast discontinued the requirement for renting set-top boxes after the claims were filed against them. The suit claimed that the rental of the set-top boxes was anti-competitive and against the law. The class-action suit weakened through its years of being dragged through the courts since 2009. The US Supreme Court supported corporate attempts to settle similar disputes through arbitration, making it less likely for claims to be settled in a class-action settlement by an independent arbitrator. With the changing legal landscape and a weakening case, the plaintiffs agreed to the offer of a $15.5 million settlement through arbitration, effectively stopping the case from going to trial. With the difficult task of proving there was an alternative to renting the set-top box and the fact that no real market existed for the box, purchase, limited sales of such boxes, and other factors, the case settled. Each of the four plaintiffs named in the case received $1000 each with each receiving $1.1 million for attorney’s fees. Other members of the class-action suit were entitled to receive $10 to $15 back as reimbursement for rental services or three months of free Showtime, and up to seven free TV show or movie rentals. Comcast paid $286,986 in free services and $211,255 in cash to the 20,262 who filed claims for their share of the settlement.
6. Comcast sued in Florida for privacy violation Settlement amount: $19,225,515
Violation Tracker confirms that Comcast was penalized for consumer protection-related offenses in 2019. Universal Pictures, a subsidiary of Comcast, was accused of sending unsolicited text messages in a lawsuit filed in a federal middle district court in Florida. Investigations from the private litigation resulted in findings that Comcast’s Universal Pictures arm violated federal privacy laws and was ordered to pay penalties of $19,255,515. Universal Pictures sent unwanted text ads in 2016 for its movie “Warcraft.” A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of more than half a million people receiving the texts resulted in each member of the class-action receiving between $35 to $50 for every text they received. The case is listed as Parker, et al v. Universal Pictures.
5. Comcast penalized for environmental-related offenses Lawsuit amount: $25.95 million
Comcast Cable Communications LLC, a subsidiary of Comcast, was accused of unlawfully disposing of hazardous waste in 2015. Furthermore, Comcast was alleged to have discarded records containing sensitive information of private customers. The California Attorney General pursued a civil case against Comcast at the state level. Investigation into the matter revealed that Comcast was liable for introducing hazardous waste into the environment and discarding customer information putting their customers at risk. Comcast was penalized $25.95 million for the indiscretions. OAG confirms that unpopular current Vice President Kamala D. Harris was the CAG at the time of the proceedings. The allegations were serious as the waste disposal was unlawful and jeopardized the health and environmental wellness of communities in California. The sensitive material put consumers at significant risk of identity theft. Comcast broke consumer protection laws through its actions, and it also polluted the environment. The judgment called for $19.85 million in civil penalties with requirements for Comcast to use $2.25 million in airtime within four years to CalRecycle, $3 million to fund projects furthering consumer and environmental protection, and enforcement in the state of California. They must spend an additional $150,000 for public service announcements educating listeners and viewers about how to properly handle and dispose of hazardous waste. They must also direct at least $700,000 for environmental compliance enhancement.
4. Comcast sued for disclosing customer information Settlement amount” $33.4 million
Comcast received a penalty of $33.4 million in 2015. Comcast fell under the microscope when investigated for allegations that the company violated consumer protection laws by allowing unauthorized disclosure and publication of non-published directory listing information about its customers. Investigators discovered that Comcast disclosed personal information such as the name, address, and telephone number of an estimated 75,000 customers without the permission of customers subscribed to Comcast Phone of California LLC and associated enterprises. They were held liable for privacy violations and ordered to pay a penalty of $33.4 million for the offenses.$8.4 million was to be paid to former customers and current affected customers in varying amounts. $52 million was ordered for penalties resolving violations of the Privacy Act to the California General Fund and the Attorney General’s Office.
3. Comcast sued by Philadelphia cable customers Settlement amount: $50 million awarded in $875 million lawsuit
Plaintiffs filed an $875 million lawsuit against Comcast claiming that the company rigged a cable monopoly and drove up charges. Attorneys filed the claim on behalf of current subscribers and former customers living in Philadelphia and the surrounding area. The suit was filed in 2003 and dragged on in courts for more than a decade. The lawsuit alleges that Comcast colluded with other cable providers in the area to swap or buy customers to create a monopoly in the Southeastern Region of Pennsylvania. They then raised prices and made an inhospitable environment for any competing companies. The suit accused Comcast of ill-gotten gains and asked for damages of $875 million. A federal judge in a Philadelphia court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor but reduced the settlement amount drastically to $50 million. Attorneys representing Comcast convinced the judge that the suit was too broad and that some of the other customers were served by other cable companies before they moved their service to Comcast. They settled the lawsuit in 2015. Comcast ordered to present former Comcast customers with a check for $15 and provide the choice of six pay-per-view movies free, two free months of the Movie Channel, or a $15 credit on their bills. The attorneys representing the plaintiffs received fees of $15 million.
2. Comcast sued by Washington State for Consumer Protection Act violations Lawsuit amount: $100 million
Washington State filed a lawsuit against Comcast in 2016. The state alleged that Comcast committed 1.8 million violations of the Washington State Consumer Protection Act. They allege Comcast made misleading claims and practices that led to the poor public image of the provider. Washington claims that the $4.99 per month Service Protection Plan indicates it covers all service calls that include calls requiring in-wall wiring. The unstated caveat was that wires concealed inside walls were not included in the plan, requiring customers to pay for most in-wall service calls. The Service Protection Plan does not cover all that it claims. Comcast changed the wording of the service plan to include its limitations on its website, but recent changes were only made as the company teetered on the brink of litigation for this case. Exceptions to the plan existed but remained buried in the fine print. Consumers were not given a copy of the fine print the customers, nor were they told that the list of exceptions existed. Comcast denies any wrongdoing and disputes the allegations that the plan was misleading. They stand by their claim that 99 percent of customer repair calls are covered under the plan. While working with the attorney general’s office to address the concerns raised, and make improvements the AG decided to sue. the lawsuit is ongoing and Comcast faces up to $100 million in damages.
1. Byron Allen Lawsuit against Comcast Lawsuit amount: $10 billion
Biz Journals reports that Byron Allen filed a lawsuit against Comcast and Charter alleging that both companies engaged in discriminatory acts against Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks in selective programming. Allen purchased The Weather Channel and claimed Civil Rights Act violations accusing Charter of racism in a $10 billion lawsuit, referring to Allen as “boy.” Comcast merged with NBCUniversal and agreed to decrease anti-competitive behaviors and has followed through with remedies to it fired an employee involved in a hate group. Comcast added Afro and Cleo TV to its list of channels and agreed to air eight minority-owned independent stations and two others as a part of its agreement to change behaviors considered racist and anti-competitive. Comcast, like Charter, was also sued for $10 billion.