Seattle Fines Comcast — Twice — For Being So Bad At Customer Service

The city of Seattle has an agreement with Comcast requiring the cable company to answer 90% of calls within 30 seconds. If you’re a Comcast customer, you are probably laughing, while also crying a bit as you flash back to interminable waits to speak to a Kabletown rep. But Seattle isn’t taking this standard lightly, as it has attempted to fine Comcast twice in just the last few months.

Crosscut.com reports that the city’s Office of Cable Communications has sent two “notice of violation” letters, calling for fines of more than $48,000.

The first notice was sent in February. It claimed that Comcast was only answering 80% of calls within the required 30 seconds. The agreement between the cable company and the city states that Comcast must pay a fine for each percentage point below 90%, and so the cable company was hit with a fine of $17,239, which Comcast paid.

Things only got worse in the next quarter, for which the city claimed Comcast was only answering 72% of its calls within 30 seconds. The city called for a $31,032 fine over this failure to meet the terms of the agreement, but the cable company was able to get out of paying this fine, as its contract gives Comcast 30 days to show it has fixed the problem.

In a June 10 letter, Comcast explained to the city that it had been caught in a period of transition, and while the quarter ending in March looked really bad, the company had bounced back to 90% for April.

Of course, as Crosscut points out, these statistics are all provided by Comcast and are not independently researched or checked by the city.

The head of the Office of Cable Communication tells Crosscut that the city is making note not just of these recent fines, but also of the increased number of consumer complaints against Comcast. This information will be used as leverage when the city and Comcast sit down in the coming year to begin hammering out a new agreement.

Among the issues the city wants to get clarified in the next contract is the definition of “customer service representative.” The city believes this should refer to an actual human being, but Comcast thinks a properly automated system is just as good. The current agreement doesn’t define the term either way.