Comcast Will Pay You $500 If They Break Your $2000 TV

Comcast’s new service agreement (PDF) has some curious details buried in the fine print. Here’s the short version: “customer equipment” includes your computer and TV set, and if Comcast somehow damages or breaks any customer equipment through “gross negligence or willful misconduct,” they will pay you up to $500, no more. “This shall be your sole and exclusive remedy relating to such activity.”

We spoke with Frank Eliason to find out what would really happen if, say, a Comcast technician knocked your high definition TV to the floor and shattered the screen. His response: “Yes there are situations where we would review what happened and repair or replace equipment. That is why we avoid moving Customer equipment.” We actually think Frank is the best thing to have happened to Comcast in a long time, but this still leaves us feeling like Comcast is basically saying, “Officially we only have to pay you $500, but trust us! We’ll never be in that sort of situation.” Umm, no.

Christina Tynan-Wood at InfoWorld asked Frank the same questions back in late February. He explained then that Comcast never opens equipment, but we still say that this amounts to a “trust us” explanation when compared to what’s actually written in the agreement.

Despite this legal bulletproof vest, Eliason says there little reason to fear that the cable guy will break your stuff. “We do not open customer-owned equipment — with the exception of installing a cable card in a slot available on the TV,” he explains. “Even then, the amount of contact with the equipment is minor. We do not open TVs or computers. If there is an issue with a Computer or TV, we verify the service is working properly and guide the customer to the appropriate repair company. In most cases we avoid contact with Customer equipment with the exception of connecting a cable (or other connection such as HDMI cable, Ethernet cable, composite cables), inserting a cable card, and using the equipment (such as watching the TV or opening up the internet on the computer) to verify service is working.”

So what we’re wondering is, is it possible to send Comcast your own modified agreement? Say, a certified letter to Comcast HQ, explaining that if they continue to provide service to you within 30 days of receiving the letter, then they agree that they have to pay the full dollar amount of any customer equipment they damage, not just through negligence but through any actions taken by them in the course of updating or installing their services? Or, an even shorter version could be: “If you break my things, I get your truck.” What if you post that by your front door, and state that continuing to come inside and perform services means the technician agrees to your terms and conditions?

New Comcast Agreement (Thanks to Susan!)
(Photo: scriptingnews)

RELATED
“Will the cable guy break my computer?” [InfoWorld]

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  1. corinthos says:

    Every time I have had cable installed they always have me sign all that junk afterwards. So in that case what would happen if they came in and broke the tv and I would just refuse to sign their agreement. Small claims?

    • Keavy_Rain says:

      @corinthos: Knowing these mega-corporations you’d have to go through binding arbitration, which you agreed to by not signing the agreement.

      I’m joking, but its probably true.

  2. InThrees says:

    “but this still leaves us feeling like Comcast is basically saying, ‘Officially we only have to pay you $500, but trust us! We’ll never be in that sort of situation.’”

    Yeah, that’s exactly what it is saying, which I personally find wholly unacceptable. I guess if I ever need to order Comcast cable I will need to specify that the installer bring his own equipment to test the installation / hook up. If they won’t warrant their service against gross misconduct / incompetence, then they can’t touch my stuff. Period.

    • johnva says:

      @InThrees: If they truly believe it would never happen, then they shouldn’t need the clause in their contracts.

    • heltoupee says:

      @InThrees: When Comcast installed my cable (actually had to run it in from the pole, as my house didn’t have cable service before then), I told him to get it to the wall, and that’s all I needed. Dude said he needed to test it, because we ordered Internet service. He plugged the cable modem in, and when the appropriate lights lit up, he left. Couldn’t have been less painless.

      Granted, I was redoing the entire room at the time, and had all the walls torn back to the studs (replacing wood paneling with drywall).

  3. Sabbadeus says:

    Unrelated; Comcast can go rot in a hole. Because today they decided to drop the bomb on one of their third-party companies(StarTek), that they are closing our facility of 185 people on may 10th due to outsourcing our work to the Phillipenes because its cheaper labor, despite the fact that our location of StarTek has the best QA of any of our other locations.

    So I now have two months to figure out where to find a new job(Since this town is closing this facility and a lumber mill, displacing just shy of 300 workers between the two. Not to mention there is no work to be had in this town as is currently.), and relocate. All while trying to find out if its even possible to get out of my apartment lease which isn’t up till the end of july.

    Oh joys upon joys indeed!

    • Easton21 says:

      @Sabbadeus: Maybe they just wanted to outsource their important work to people who actually know how to spell “Philippines”.

    • Suulia says:

      @Sabbadeus: In my personal experience, all @dohtem:

      I wish more customers were as smart as both of you. No, I’m not being sarcastic, I mean it. If you have a complicated setup, make it easy on the tech and simplify it.

      It is NOT the tech’s job to know everything about every tv/dvd burner/tivo/computer/router/switch/etc. It’s NOT the tech’s job to move your tv/entertainment center/furniture.

      The tech is there for one of two reasons: to install service, or to fix the service. Eliminating extraneous variables makes it much much easier for the tech to do both of those things.

  4. vladthepaler says:

    Interesting that willful misconduct is included in that. A Comcast installer could pick up your brand new laptop, smash it repeatedly against the wall until there was nothing left but little pieces, and *still* only be liable for $500. Or assuming theft counts as willful misconduct, the Comcast installer could also simply *take* your new laptop and Comcast would, at its sole discression, give you $500 for it.

    • Xerloq says:

      @vladthepaler: Sure, Comcast would be liable for $500, but you could sue the contractor himself.

      The limitation of liability clause is intended to protect Comcast from liability while the contractor is handling customer equipment in relationship to the services they provide.

      I don’t smashing or stealing your laptop has anything to do with your cable or internet, and would be outside the scope of the coverage.

  5. k6richar says:

    I didnt think contracts could absolve people of negligence or misconduct.

  6. Odiase says:

    Thats such crap. It should be you break my 2000 dollar TV, I break your face.

  7. SergioDingo says:

    Why would they need to touch your stuff anyways? It’s your responsibility to wire your own hardware up. The fact everything is color coded these days even my grandparents could setup an HDTV.

    The last time I had a cable guy in my apartment ( a week ago) all he needed to do was verify the signal levels coming into the apartment, then watch me as I turned on the TV and got a picture, then he watched me pull up google and run a bandwidth test. He didn’t even get within 5 feet of my gear.

    • usa_gatekeeper says:

      @SergioDingo: “…fact everything is color coded these days even my grandparents could setup an HDTV…”

      In the United States, about 7 percent of the male population – or about 10.5 million men – either cannot distinguish red from green, or see red and green differently. (excerpt from Wikipedia)

      • oneandone says:

        @usa_gatekeeper: My father is colorblind, and it’s particularly difficult when the colored surfaces are small. If one wall is red and one is green, he can tell the difference. But matching socks gets tricky – and also anything involving electronics. Wires, colored jacks – impossible. And he’s an engineer who likes fiddling with electronics, so it gets frustrating for him.

        On the other hand, it yielded a lot of fun together time when I was younger, since my job would be to sit next to him and point at the right wire when he said “blue” or “yellow”. I do not think it would be easy for him to set up an HDTV without some trial & error w the cables.

    • lordargent says:

      @SergioDingo:

      Cablecards, they won’t let you install them yourselves. (at least, Cox didn’t).

      /cablecards in a (then) $600-$800 tivo.

    • krispykrink says:

      @SergioDingo: Because when I got Comcast internet service a few years ago, the Tech absolutely refused to establish my connection unless I allowed him to come in and connect cable modem himself.

  8. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Even better… at Comcast’s “sole discretion”.

    Hmm… that $2000 TV, well, here, we’ll replace it with this here Sorny 15″ B/W. Enjoy your new HD cable package.

  9. tedyc03 says:

    Something that a lawyer taught me: lawyers like to write these kinds of documents but they’re unenforceable for the most part. While you can sign a document that says “I won’t sue you if you do everything right and something still goes wrong” you can’t sign away your right to redress if they do something they know will cause failure or harm.

    This “agreement” isn’t very useful, except for their lawyers to point to the clause and say “see? We’ll win so stop pursuing this expensive litigation now.”

    They could also put in the contract that you have to wear polka dots to the appointment for them to be liable for anything, and it wouldn’t be enforceable either. Contract law > contract terms, if the two conflict.

    • tedyc03 says:

      @tedyc03: Oh, IANAL so please speak with a lawyer if you need actual legal advice.

    • SabreDC says:

      @tedyc03: IANAL either, but can’t you just argue that you signed under duress or undue influence, such as Comcast threatening to bill you for a service call unless you sign or something like that?

      • tedyc03 says:

        @SabreDC: It would be easier to attack the substance of the agreement probably. Since the agreement itself is likely unlawful, it’s easier to shift the burden onto them (for proving that it is in fact lawful) than to take the burden on yourself (by trying to prove there was adequate duress).

  10. JRules says:

    I don’t let Cable guys connect cables to my tv anyway, they show up give me the box/cables, watch me wire it and see it work, then leave.

  11. Canino says:

    @Sabbadeus:
    Sorry about your job loss – I wish you good luck in finding something else.

    But I don’t have my glasses on and had to read that 3 times before I realized you didn’t work for “StarTrek”. I was thinking, “damn, that’s cool! that guy works for StarTrek!”.

  12. kateblack says:

    @Odiase : That’s still a crap deal. Try paying for new equipment with a broken Comcast Installer’s face and see how far you get.

    • Mike8813 says:

      @kateblack: To anyone running Windows and having reply problems:

      I’ve noticed that when I run into reply problems using Internet Explorer, I can reply no problem if I just use Firefox instead. Sorry if this has been mentioned already.

  13. dohtem says:

    And my gf calls me neurotic when I get prepared for the cable guy. I don’t give them an excuse to be stupid.

    I unplug my router and hide it (so they do not blame my “un-configured” router for any connection issues)

    I move the modem to the center of the room, or a wide open space.

    I take the cable box out of the entertainment center and put it on the floor. I dont want them mucking around behind the TV.

    I also move the cables from behind my sofas and run them to the box in plain view.

    If its to fix a connection issue, I whip out an old PC so they can install their Comcast connection wizard junk on that one.

    Once everything is working, I don’t mind dealing with putting my equipment away myself.

    • dangerp says:

      @dohtem: I’m pretty much the same way. I basically dumb down my setup to the bare essentials, in order to avoid confusing the tech (“You mean you run the cable box through a receiver instead of straight to the TV?”). Any excuse they could make that it was my fault (eg router, entertainment center, etc) gets disconnected and hidden.

  14. sapere_aude says:

    Last year the Comcast guy hooking up my cable knocked my TV onto hard wood floors off the chest it was sitting on. It was a CRT TV and luckily it still worked. I called Comcast anyway and filed a report with them just in case it stopped working soon after. So I advise anyone getting cable installed by Comcast not to let the cable guy anywhere near your TV, especially if its an LCD/Plasma.

  15. Law-Talking Guy says:

    As a law-talking guy, I can confirm that this is nonsense. If they break your tv, they’re responsible for the costs of repairing/replacing it.

  16. Dave J. says:

    I’m pretty sure that consumers can’t be held to the terms of any agreement that gives up their own rights. It’s like waivers that you sign before competing in some athletic event–they are almost entirely unenforceable. If you sign a paper that says you absolve someone of hypothetical negligence, you can still sue for negligence if they do something to cause you harm. Same here. They break your $2,000 TV, you can sue them for $2,000.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Does that legal text really include your TV? A TV is neither “software” nor a “service.” I can see this covering a cable modem, since that’s “Comcast Equipment,” but not your own TV. Can some lawyer-ly person clarify?

  18. SteelersAreGo says:

    The truth is, some courts would let it stand and some would find it unconscionable (aka void). Definitely call a lawyer if it comes up, but I imagine if push comes to shove Comcast is not going to want precedent that their terms are unenforceable, and will take care of your needs. IANAL.

  19. Joeb5 says:

    Will they try to use this to get out of paying for fixing stuff even if is there own fault like miss hooking the ground and cooking your TV’s the cable boxes, you computer and more. Then they say that the cable box costs $500 and you are SOL.

  20. jake7294 says:

    They should just wear t-shirts that say “we’re not responsible for anything”. Kind of like the car washes you go to that have we’re not responsible signs that basically say they can steal from you and you can’t do anything…

  21. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I had a ground loop issue. It was barely noticable on the analog TVs I had, but when I hooked up a 100″ digital projector, there were large purple and green bars scrolling up the screen. I checked everywhere within my home, and isolated that it was an issue outside.

    I requested Comcast come check it out, but they wanted to come in the house. I wasn’t going to be home when they were around, and I didnt want to run the risk of them damaging my projector.

    If they turned it on and off without letting it warm up or cool down, they could damage the bulb. So since they refused to come look at the connection on the outside of my town house without coming inside, I canceled my cable TV.

    Now I have netflix streaming, hulu, etc.

    • scoosdad says:

      @AlteredBeast: Two 75 ohm coax to 300 ohm twin-lead matching transformers, wired back to back with the twin lead sides connected together, and placed between your cable box and their incoming line, would have fixed that in a jiffy. All you needed was to isolate your ground from theirs, and wiring up two matching transformers like that effectively disconnects the ground between the two.

      I’m not saying that your equipment should not be grounded, just that your house ground and their idea of what’s ground didn’t match up.

  22. H3ion says:

    SteelersAreGo is right (sorry but I don’t know how to use the reply function and I understand it isn’t working any way). A court could easily tell you that you signed it and you’re stuck with it. Trying to convince a court that a contract provision is unconsionable means trying to convince the court that the contract provision should be banned, and there aren’t that many judges, especially at the state court level, who will go to that extreme. Try striking through some provisions in a Comcast contract and see how far you get.

  23. opticnrv says:

    So…ultimately…here is where we, as a society, are headed:

    “By reading these words, the reader agrees to pay the author a monthly monetary sum equivalent to the reader’s net pay and continue to provide the author with a standard of living to which they have become accustomed for the rest of their life. The reader also agrees to be the author’s “slave” during the hours the reader is not working to provide income. The term “slave”, for the purpose of this agreement, is defined as a condition under which the reader must follow the written or verbal instructions of the author with the exception of any instructions that could be legally designated as illegal or immoral.”

    Game Over

  24. Papa Midnight says:

    So what we’re wondering is, is it possible to send Comcast your own modified agreement? Say, a certified letter to Comcast HQ, explaining that if they continue to provide service to you within 30 days of receiving the letter, then they agree that they have to pay the full dollar amount of any customer equipment they damage, not just through negligence but through any actions taken by them in the course of updating or installing their services? Or, an even shorter version could be: “If you break my things, I get your truck.” What if you post that by your front door, and state that continuing to come inside and perform services means the technician agrees to your terms and conditions?

    Actually… now that you mention it… Arbitration in reverse would be nice.

    Any attorneys who can help?

  25. N.RobertMoses says:

    Would anything be nullified by having a sign saying something to the effect, “While on this property, visitors or the organizations/companies they represent are liable for all damages and replacement of damaged items by their action or inaction. Your entry onto the property signifies your acceptance of this contract.”

  26. 2719 says:

    You don’t agree to the terms – don’t get the service. Simple isn’t it?

  27. CoarseLive says:

    Christ almighty. Why not pay the friggin cost? It doesn’t make sense!

  28. downwithmonstercable says:

    @Coles_Law: Same here. Happens intermittently.

    PS. I hate firefox. It has its own issues. I had reply issues using Safari on my wife’s ibook too.

  29. chuck0008 says:

    @ Sabbadeus: That’s the best news I’ve ever heard. Ever. I hate Star Tek. You people are scum, and I could write a day’s worth of Consumerist posts about my experiences with your Greeley, CO call center, back when I still had to have WildBlue to get internet that wasn’t dial up. Last strw was getting my internet shut off and then waiting 8 WEEKS and counting to get it turned back on because of a “back office malfunction.” Hooray when Quest finally strung DSL out into the boonies. I ended up suing WildBlue for their, and your, gross and utterly incomprehensible incompetence. I won, of course. As an aside, I worked 2 years as an inbound for Dish Network, so I know how CSCs work. You guys were just jerks, who couldn’t understand why I might be to the point where I’d swear after a month of “we’ll forward this to our escalation department and they will call you back in 24 hours at the latest.” Never got that call. So maybe They are outsourcing their call center work to someone who actually has half an ounce of ability. You ever think of that?

  30. JiminyChristmas says:

    The Comcast contract is laughable on its face. In some cases a jurisdiction will uphold a contract where one party indemnifies the other for ordinary negligence. Plain old negligence is when one by act or omission fails to exercise the amount of care the hypothetical “reasonable” person would expect.

    Gross negligence and “willful or wanton misconduct” are more or less the same thing. As compared to ordinary negligence, the standard for gross negligence would be an act or omission that no “reasonable” person would expect. Basically, Comcast is asking its customers to agree that even if their agents act with wanton disregard for your safety or property they are on the hook for no more than $500. Ridiculous!

    Add in the facts that it’s a contract of adhesion and Comcast is a monopoly service provider in many places and I don’t think they would last long in court with this. It’s one thing to waive certain rights before you choose to do something like bungee jumping. It’s another to ask people to agree to ridiculous terms as a condition of getting a ubiquitous service like cable tv.

  31. silver-bolt says:

    @ [consumerist.com] Jiminy: Comcast, as for cable and internet, is not a required service, so it is not a contract of adhesion. Phone, maybe, if they are the only provider.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Actually, you can limit your liability for gross negligence in some states. In no state can you limit your liability for willful misconduct. The fact that Comcast would try to do so does not speak well of the legal competence of whoever drafted that agreement.

    As to modifying the Comcast agreement, I mark up agreements from large companies all the time, and rarely does anyone object, so you might want to go the direct route (instead of posting on your door) and cross out anything you find objectionable.

  33. abz_zeus says:

    Here in the Uk we have a whole raft on unfair terms [www.oft.gov.uk]

    basically if it is unfair, it doesn’t exist in the contract.

  34. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    @scoosdad:

    I created an ground loop isolator (like you described), which elimiated the purple and green bands, but in doing so it weakened the signal. Since it was digital, some HD channels would just not come through at all (even with a signal amplifier hooked up).

    But thanks for the advice!

  35. JC says:

    DIY

    I would not trust the majority of these guys with my toaster oven, let alone my precious audio and video equipment. They even have the balls to charge for the work…installation…service call? Anyway.

    With a lot of time and alot of effort you could DO IT YOURSELF. Maybe not so much time but with the effort you will learn something and probably even enjoy it or not.

  36. Cyberxion101 says:

    @ chuck0008

    Wow, that’s excessively fucked up. I only hope that karma doesn’t rape you in the ass with a rusty pipe for that. I also hope that as intrusive as it may be, someday someone institutes an internet ID system so that people like you will either be discouraged by the lack of anonymity from acting like utterly tactless cock-holes, or can be held accountable for it when you do.

    The funny thing is that due to your over-the-top post, I have to wonder if much of your issue with Star Tek wasn’t of your own making. I don’t know when this happened to you, but your apparent inability to let it go makes me wonder how you handled the situation when it was fresh. Sure you may have gotten frustrated after eight weeks of being unable to level-up your World of Warcraft character, but swearing at a CSR reflects poorly on you regardless of how long you may have waited for a resolution.
    Now I know that while I would be just as quick to resolve a problem for the world’s biggest asshole as I would for someone who isn’t a total jerk-off, some people might not be so willing to take the abuse. Maybe you didn’t get a quick resolution because you lack the self-control requied to approach the situation with some tact and class?

    That’s all hypothetical though. I think the real issue is something entirely different. So let me tell you something about call centers and the function they serve so that maybe you won’t be as quick to act like an enormous asshole when dealing with them in the future.

    Did you know that call centers are, functionally-speaking, nothing more than glorified answering services? They are required to present themselves as representatives of a given account, of which they generally hold many, but most third-party call center employees have but a miniscule fraction of the authority that the employees of the companies they represent do.
    They basically log calls and forward the relevant information to folks at the company for follow-up, but as far as being able to rectify your situation then and there, their hands are tied. They are simply unequipped to do it. So when you were railing at these folks for being incompetant and not resolving your situation, cursing and swearing at them like a self-entitled cunt-rag, it was likely that they were doing their job as well as they could, but that WildBlue simply screwed the pooch on the follow-through.

    This is something you wouldn’t know because when you worked for Dish Network, you likely worked for the company in one of their facilities. At least if you worked there in Colorado. You would have been a representative of the company with all the authority that came with it, and could resolve any issues customers had right then and there. That’s the key difference between the customer service work you did, and the customer service work third-party call-centers like Star Tek do.

    And now that you know all this, can you see how being happy that 185 folks are out of a job makes you look like an ignorant cunt? You’d be well served to brush that chip off of your shoulder and get a clue. This isn’t good news.

    • chuck0008 says:

      @Cyberxion101: Nice reply. Well thought out. Very cleverly worded. I also love the excessive swearing and ad hominim attacks on my character. Yes, it has been a year since this happened, and yes, I am till very pissed off about it. My wife was still a student at CSU at the time of this. The only reason we had to have a hih speed internet connection was so that she could access course materials. Having to arrange our schedule so that we could use an alternative source of internet was unbelievably inconvenient, particularly as we both worked, had to share a car because we were both broke ass students, and lived outside of town. I know how a 3rd party CSC works. These people were just worthless. I know the level of training the CSRs get, because I know people who worked at their call center. It’s minimal. SO why do we cheer when some place like Circuit City goes out of business, costing tens of thousands of jobs, and you want me to feel bad for cheering on the closing of this rathole? It’s even more unsettling when you realize that both companies are struggling because of the poor level of customer service they provided (of course CC had a few other problems, but that was a biggie). Sono, I do not feel bad. By this guy’s own post his CSC provided support for Comcast. How many COnsumerist posts where people are bitching about Comcast customer service, and CSRs hanging up on them, and being rude to them, and what have you do you suppose came out of Star Tek CSCs? And this is good news. The best thing that could happen to consumers is for every shady, incompetent, impotent, uncaring company to go under. I won’t miss them in the least.

    • chuck0008 says:

      @Cyberxion101: Oh, and internet anonymity doesn’t do a thing for me. My name is Charles Everett, formerly of Ault, Colorado, presently in Oakland, California. I don’t need to hide behind a computer.

  37. MrEvil says:

    Even though their pricing sucks, my cable company (Suddenlink), isn’t as bad in this regard. They equip their techs with all the tools they need in order to test a customer’s cable without having to touch customer equipment. They can even check the cable modem.

  38. cmhbob says:

    @undefined: Where’s the “Report Post” link again? Completely uncalled-for. Really, dude.

  39. tworld says:

    How many times do I have to say this? When companies/stores rip off the public, the public has to boycott them and shut the business down.

  40. Anonymous says:

    I think that comcast is still a rip off. They have come out to my house 4 or 5 times to dix my problem. Which up until the last guy said that it was a signal problem and the cable outside needed replaced. The last tech replaced comcast 2 modem boxes with one box and than they charged me $30.00 for the service call to replace there own so called bad equipment that was the problem. And my computer still quits working when my phone rings comcast becomes nonresponsive. So they even charge you when they are replacing there own equipment. I would like to know if I contact the fcc if they would do anything about this.