UPDATE #3: Conal has filed a lawsuit against the cable giant in a federal court in California, alleging that — among other claims — Comcast violated a federal law prohibiting cable companies from sharing customers’ information without their consent.
When you complain to your cable company, you certainly don’t expect that the cable company will then contact your employer and discuss your complaint. But that’s exactly what happened to one former Comcast customer who says he was fired after the cable company called a partner at his accounting firm.
IT BEGAN INNOCENTLY ENOUGH…
Conal began subscribing to Comcast service in early 2013 after he says he was sold a 9-month promotional pricing offer. But from the start, there were issues with his service, as he was being charged for set-top boxes that had yet to be activated. Additionally, someone at Comcast billing had misspelled Conal’s last name, meaning some of his bills were not being delivered.
He says he met with a Comcast rep in May 2013 about the billing issues and promised they would all be sorted out, but things only got worse.
A few months later, the promotional discount shrunk and Conal’s monthly bill increased by $20, in addition to still being charged for unactivated devices in his house. Comcast also twice charged him an additional $7 for a second modem he did not have.
Meanwhile, attempts to get a resolution from Comcast went unanswered.
CUTTING THE CORD
He attempted to cancel his service in Oct. 2013 but says a Comcast rep convinced him that the billing issues would be resolved and that he would get free DVR service and The Movie Channel for three months as compensation.
But things didn’t just continue as they had before; Comcast somehow managed to sink even lower than it had before, sending Conal about a dozen pieces of equipment that he didn’t order.
“There were a few DVRs, modem, standard boxes and equipment that I was unfamiliar with,” he says.
Making matters worse, Comcast billed him $1,820 for all this stuff he’d never requested and had no use for.
When Conal returned all the equipment to Comcast and, being an experienced accountant at one of the nation’s most prestigious firms, even prepared a spreadsheet detailing every charge, overcharge, payment and credit on his account for his brief time as a Comcast customer.
He says even this didn’t convince Comcast that there was a problem and that Conal had been overcharged. And even though it wasn’t yet past due, Comcast sent Conal’s account into collections in Feb. 2014.
THE CALL IN QUESTION
And so on Feb. 6, 2014, he chose to try going above Comcast’s customer service, which hadn’t been of any help in the year he’d been a subscriber, and instead contacted the office of the company’s Controller. He spoke to someone in that office who promised Conal would receive a call back to address the issues.
He describes that callback as “bizarre,” with the rep not identifying which company she was calling from, just starting out with “How can I help you?” Then she kept insisting that a technician had shown up for an appointment, but wouldn’t specify which appointment. The rep then began asking him for the color of his house.
So he tried the Controller’s office again, to let them know that the rep they’d sent his way had failed miserably at her job.
During this call, he says that he mentioned that Comcast’s billing and accounting issues should probably be investigated by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), a private-sector oversight operation. This ultimately led to two service calls where no one ever showed up and no explanations were given.
But something did happen. Just not anything good.
WE KNOW WHERE YOU WORK
Remember how we briefly mentioned above that Conal worked for a large, prestigious accounting firm? Comcast certainly noticed that fact, especially since that firm is one that does business with Comcast.
At some point shortly after that call, someone from Comcast contacted a partner at the firm to discuss Conal. This led to an ethics investigation and Conal’s subsequent dismissal from his job; a job where he says he’d only received positive feedback and reviews for his work.
Comcast maintained that Conal used the name of his employer in an attempt to get leverage. Conal insists that he never mentioned his employer by name, but believes that someone in the Comcast Controller’s office looked him up online and figured out where he worked.
When he was fired, Conal’s employer explained that the reason for the dismissal was an e-mail from Comcast that summarized conversations between Conal and Comcast employees.
But Conal has never seen this e-mail in order to say whether it’s accurate and Comcast has thus far refused to release any tapes of the phone calls related to this matter.
And while his former employer did provide consulting services to Comcast, it was not the accounting firm that audited Comcast’s books. So Conal doesn’t quite see how mentioning the name of his employer would have helped gain him any leverage.
In response to a letter from Conal’s lawyer — he has not filed a lawsuit, but it’s not out of the question — Comcast’s Senior Deputy General Counsel admits that the company did contact Conal’s employer but says that Conal “is not in a position to complain that the firm came to learn” about his dispute with Comcast.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
I think whether or not Conal mentioned his employer is beside the point. The problem should not have reached the point where he was even reaching out the Comcast Controller’s office.
Had the billing issues been fixed on the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth chance that he gave Comcast to address the issue, the call in question would never have happened.
And even if Conal did identify his employer in the hope of getting his billing issue fixed, he wouldn’t have been trying to get preferential treatment; just the service he’d paid for.
I’m also curious why, even though Comcast insists that Conal attempted to leverage his place of business to get his issue resolved, it has not specifically cited language that he allegedly used in the call.
How many times a day do Comcast reps hear a customer say something like “I’m a lawyer” or “I’m a big shot at [fill in the blank]”? How many of those result in Comcast going out of its way to contact that customer’s employer?
We reached out to Comcast to ask whether it’s company policy to contact customers’ employers. No one answered that question, but a rep for Comcast did give a brief statement.
“Our customers deserve the best experience every time they interact with us,” reads the statement. Comcast says it has previously apologized to Conal, but adds “we will review his lawyer’s letter and respond as quickly as possible.”