Comcast Fined $12,000 For Having Crappy Customer Service

Comcast has been fined $12,000 for having crappy customer service by Montgomery County, Maryland..

“Fining companies that fail to fulfill their contractual obligations is an important part of good government,” said Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg.”Damages force violators of customer service standards to change or face further penalties. The Council holds Comcast to the same high standards it would apply to every important service provider.”

Comcast’s fine stems from repeated violations of their franchise agreement with the county, and isn’t the first time the company has been fined for poor customer service. Comcast’s incompetance has resulted in $74,000 in penalties to Montgomery County in the last 12 months.

The county sets forth customer service standards in their franchise agreement, standards that include:

  • Requiring Comcast to answer the phone within 30 seconds and transfer the customer to a live human in an additional 30 seconds.

  • Fixing service interruptions within 24 hours if no work is needed inside your home, and 3 days if access to your home is required.
  • A 10% per day credit if the technician is unable to repair your connection during a scheduled service appointment.

“Our residents expect and deserve good quality cable television service from our franchisees, and we will continue to hold those companies accountable for being responsive to customer needs,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett.

In response to this post, Comcast spokesperson Jennifer Khoury said, “…we are committed to customer service and have made significant improvements over the last year in Montgomery County with plans for additional customer service enhancements in 2008. For example, in 2007, we invested $290 million throughout the region, added 300 employees and announced plans for a 500-seat regional call center in Largo, Maryland that will open early this year.”

Here’s a PDF that outlines Montgomery County’s Cable Consumer’s Rights, so you can read it and get all jealous that your county isn’t on top of stuff the way they are.

Montgomery Fines Comcast for Poor Customer Service; Also Publishes Cable “Consumer Rights” On-line Brochure [Montgomery County] (Thanks, Steven!)
(Photo:cmorran123)

PREVIOUSLY: Comcast Fined $12,281.84 For Not Answering The Phone Quickly Enough

Comments

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  1. IrisMR says:

    Oh yea. With 12,000 bucks less in their pockets they are SURE to have learned their lesson

  2. scoosdad says:

    According to the “previously” link on Consumerist, they were fined about the same amount this time last year. I guess Comcast will just write this $12K off as one of their annual costs of doing business as usual in Montgomery County.

  3. warf0x0r says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the subscribers in Montgomery got a notice saying that rates were increasing to cover their new “costs” in 2008.

  4. SVreader says:

    Sounds pretty much like when multi-billion dollar corporations are fined a few hundred to a few thousand dollars for things like safety violations in their factories.

  5. MasterShake says:

    $12,000 might not sting but making this veRRy public might. Thanks Consumerist.

  6. Might be time to head out to the next county meeting and see if we can get those ported over to Baltimore County along with the promise of franchise Network Neutrality. That way I can laugh at all the people in Montgomery County having to deal with shotty ISP service.

  7. qwickone says:

    @IrisMR: Well it does say $74K in the past 12 months. So i guess this brings the total to $86K. Plus all the bad press. At least it’s something, right?

  8. uncleezno says:

    I’m in DC, and I wouldn’t move to PG county for all the anti-Comcast legislation in the world. What a dump.

  9. type_slowly says:

    @uncleezno: But the fines are in MoCo.

  10. jaydez says:

    Still sounds like a lot less than it would cost Comcast to hire more CSRs. They will probably gladly pay the $12k if it saves them $50k in salaries.

  11. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @scoosdad: After seeing the requirements, I’d have to agree with you. Knowing comcast, they don’t have a chance in hell of meeting any of those in their current state.

    Has anyone ever, in the history of the universe, called comcast and gotten a live person (outsourced or not) in under a minute? It sounds like urban legend to me.

  12. Starfury says:

    Many years back the local cable company was being bought by TCI. At the time they had a terrible (Comcastic) reputation for customer service. The council made the TCI rep wait through normal business, then a ton of pissed off city residents upset that their beloved local cable company was being eaten before passing a ton of service agreement laws that the local cable company had to meet. THEN they approved the takeover.

    The TCI rep was at least 7 months pregnant too. I think they were trying for a sympathy play that failed.

  13. dwarf74 says:

    I hate to say it, but I think the county’s requirements are a bit on the excessive side… Don’t get me wrong, I hate Comcast with a burning passion, but it’s clear nobody writing these guidelines has any idea how either call centers or the cable biz works.

    While it would be nice, it’s pretty much impossible to guarantee a call will always be answered by a human within 30 seconds… Most call centers aim for 80% within 20 (sometimes 60) seconds. In order to reach 100%/30 seconds, the company needs to staff for peak times and will end up very overstaffed the rest of the day. When a call center is greatly overstaffed, it’s basically hemorrhaging money.

    I work for a company that prides itself on its customer service and is generally overstaffed. Even on our best days, we don’t reach 100%.

    I have no doubt this fine costs far, far less than it would cost to overstaff their national call center. Heck; it would probably cost $12,000 just to hire & train one or two representatives, never mind their benefits and pay.

  14. unklegwar says:

    @IrisMR: I guess that’ll be one less gold paver in the lobby of their new building here in philly.

  15. noquarter says:

    @dwarf74: They have to hit 90% for the phone-related requirements. And RCN managed to do it.

  16. Erwos says:

    MoCo is one of the richest counties in the nation. Comcast’s damages probably come out to like 30 cents a customer. Not exactly a game breaker.

    I live there, and I’ve got to say, their service is abysmal. During install, they totally bungled everything – albeit in such a way that I’m getting more than what I paid for.

  17. savdavid says:

    That is a drop in the bucket to them. I don’t think anything will change for long, if ever.

  18. Saboth says:

    Comcast reaches under their sofa and pulls out 12k in change. “Here you go”. “Now, lets get down to business of raising our rates a 3rd time in 1 year.”

  19. floyderdc says:

    As a former employee of Comcast of Montgomery Co I can speak that customer serivice is horrible here. (I also am a Montgomery County resident.) Comcast just could not do anything right by these people. I mean not fixing problems when they occured. Hold times over 30 mins (on saturday at least). I am so glad I am out of there.

  20. fluiddruid says:

    Frankly, I agree with dwarf74. It’s cheaper for Comcast to pay the fine than to staff up to that degree. I’m a former call center employee and reaching those standards is difficult — and, you’d still get fined for getting closer but not making it. Why not cut staff, eat the fine, and profit?

  21. lostalaska says:

    Hmmm Maybe that’s what the $3 government tax is all about.

  22. MoCo says:

    A $12,000 fine will teach Comcast two lessons:

    (1) It’s cheaper to pay the fine than to improve customer service

    (2) If the fines get too high, then just contribute more to the campaigns of the County Councilmembers. That worked for real estate developers in Montgomery County, so it will work for Comcast.

  23. attackgypsy says:

    I work for one of Comcast’s competetors. We get fined
    all the time too. But whenever we do, we hear about it big time. People get fired over this constantly.

  24. Joe_Bloe says:

    @noquarter: I second that about RCN. I refuse to patronize Comcast, and RCN has been great in the (admittedly few and far between) places they cover. Too bad they’re teetering on the brink of insolvency.

  25. Avohir says:

    Just revoke the franchise, if we got some competition in the area they might be forced to charge reasonable rates and offer customer service. FIOS isn’t available to me yet… *sigh*

    -sincerely, a montgomery county resident

  26. Szin says:

    …Wait, you can sue for that? Here I come, Linksys!

  27. aishel says:

    Can i have some of that cash? I spent an hour and 45 minutes on the phone last night, speaking to 6 different people and getting hung up on twice. Blah.

  28. Munsoned says:

    @aishel: That’s one step better than me. The last time I had a problem with Comcast (I also live in MoCo) I called during Monday Night Football about two months ago because my HD ESPN was out. Probably called around 8:30 – 9:00 PM. The auto-recording simply said: we’re too busy, call back later and hung up on me (probably a dozen or so times over the course of an hour). Never did get through. The ESPN outage was fixed the next day, however, so I had no reason to call back and escalate.

  29. nardo218 says:

    Damages force violators of customer service standards to change or face further penalties.

    Damages of $12,000 won’t force them to do anything.

  30. Android8675 says:

    I’d like to know if my county has something similar. Anyone live in the bay area who might know where documents of this nature could be accessable to the public?

  31. clankboomsteam says:

    @floyderdc:

    That’s Comcast’s customer service everywhere, not just in Montgomery County. Here in California, I’ve got an ongoing problem with my Comcast internet service that has been going on for — no exaggeration — TWO YEARS:

    My net’s up, my net’s down, it’s up, it’s down — dozens and dozens of times a week. Every time I schedule a tech “supervisor” to come and fix it, they send out a low-level schmuck who lacks basic computer knowledge for the umpteenth time, and nothing is ever fixed.

    When I demand that Comcast stop charging me for the service I’m paying for but not getting, they tell me the best they can do is a prorated discount for each individual occurrence of interrupted service, provided I report each instance as it happens. This is, of course, an impossibility, as simply reaching a human being at their Customer Service department can take as long as two or three of my service outages, and I can’t possibly report each individual occurrence. On top of that, Comcast’s solution of a prorated discount for lost minutes of service translates to such a miniscule amount as to make it not even remotely worth the trouble. $10 off my bill for an hour of hassle and time lost? GOSH, that’s awfully kind of you, Comcast!

    Oh, and my favorite thing about Comcast’s policy here? The fact that they’ll happily extend a more satisfactory discount or refund when my case is closed and my problem’s been resolved. After two years of ongoing non-stop trouble, I sincerely doubt I’ll ever see this happen, nor will I ever see that money.

    Comcast is useless, no matter where they are. Until a judge slaps them with tens of millions in fines, it’s clear that they won’t change their business practices, and they’ll continue to rip people off and offer nothing in the way of compensation.

  32. aishel says:

    @ErnieMcCracken: I remember that! I had to call in because my service suddenly died. I have found that if you call 1-800-COMCAST and they say they’re too busy, all you have to do is hang up and call 1-888-COMCAST. Not sure why the different prefix makes things different.

  33. ExtraCelestial says:

    Wow, hello to all my neighbours! Why would you even consider Comcast when you’re in an area where house burningly hot Fios is available?

  34. aishel says:

    @TinkishDelight: I’m in an apartment building, and they say Fios isn’t available here. (BTW, I’m in Balt. County)

  35. ComcastCorporate says:

    I want you to know that we are committed to customer service and have made significant improvements over the last year in Montgomery County with plans for additional customer service enhancements in 2008. For example, in 2007, we invested $290 million throughout the region, added 300 employees and announced plans for a 500-seat regional call center in Largo, Maryland that will open early this year.

  36. realwx says:

    I live in Burtonsville (Mont. Co., MD) and had enough of Comcast so I switched to FiOS. Plain and simple.

    @aishel: If you’re in any of those apartment buildings near Reisterstown or Owings Mills, you’re screwed as far as cable goes.

  37. yesteryear says:

    my city owns the electricity, cable tv, and cable internet service company… and the best part about this (other than the simple fact that i don’t have comcast) is when i call customer service, they are literally 4 blocks away from my house. Oh, and i get high speed internet and 100 channels for a total of $70 a month.

  38. n/a says:

    Too bad that amt is pennies to comcast, since they are comcastic at ensuring they earn well beyond that amount to write it off.

  39. JTRockville says:

    @dwarf74: The customer service standards for cable tv service were written by the FCC. btw – any jurisdiction can enforce them if they want to, so those of you who don’t live in Montgomery County MD, but like what you read in the pamphlet, ask your local franchise authority why they don’t enforce the FCC’s customer service standards.

  40. JTRockville says:

    @Avohir: At the last quarterly review (which was actually held 2 quarters ago due to the unfortunate and untimely death of our cable administrator), revoking the franchise was mentioned. But it wasn’t brought up again during this review.

    Frankly, I can’t figure out why Comcast’s franchise hasn’t been revoked. They consistently violate many terms of the agreement. It makes you wonder just what a cable company has to do to get their franchise revoked.

  41. Carencey says:

    Another Montgomery Co. resident here, quite happy to hear about the fine even if it ends up being not much more than symbolic. I hadn’t even reported all my issues to the county, although I looked up the website after my last round of service calls. The majority of my problems were caused by Cableview, the contractor that handles installation for Comcast in my area. When I first got cable installed out here, it took 5 scheduled appointments (only one of which happened within the 3 hr window I was given) and 3 more visits to the customer service center in Rockville to get fully installed cable, internet, and (mostly) functional DVR.
    Of course, I hope someone is watching to make sure that they don’t just include that 12K in their next rate increase.

  42. dcaslin says:

    A 500 seat call center in Largo, MD! No! The only good thing about Comcast customer service was the outsourced Canadian call centers. Now I’ll have to deal with same people on the phone as I do at their office. This is terrible news…

  43. leftystrat says:

    I live in Montgomery County, PA. Maybe we can get some sort of reciprocity going with Montgomery County, MD.

    I was one of the people affected by Comcast deciding to suspend my service for using too much bandwidth (but they wouldn’t tell me HOW MUCH was ok).

    They should roast in the hot place where the guy with the horns and point stick presides. Along with Verizon.

  44. Kevin Cotter says:

    They saved well over $12K in providing shitty customer service!

  45. theblackdog says:

    @comcastcorporate: That’s all fine and dandy, now do something about the outrageous price you charge for cable internet if a person does not buy cable TV as well. $62 a month in Prince Georges County? I don’t think so.

  46. JTRockville says:

    Looks like Mount Hood upped the ante. They fined Comcast $43,899 for failing to notify customers about service changes last October:
    [www.bizjournals.com]