Comcast Will Pay $50M To End 11-Year-Old Class Action That Sought $875M

Nearly 11 years after it was first filed — and after a trip that saw it go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — a class action claim brought against Comcast by cable customers here in the Philadelphia area may finally be coming to an end, and for only a small fraction of what the plaintiffs had once hoped to collect.

The suit goes back to 2003, when Philly-area consumers alleged that Comcast had violated federal antitrust law by snatching up smaller pay-TV operations and then swapping them with other cable companies in order to cluster its service in specific geographic areas.

The plaintiffs alleged that this sort of action allowed Comcast to “to acquire or maintain monopoly power, raise prices, engage in anticompetitive conduct, and limit choice for cable consumers to effectively the only game in town.”

Originally, the group of plaintiffs had sought a total of $875 million from Comcast, but in 2013 the cable company managed to convince the Supremes in D.C. that, because they were coming from different areas that had been previously been served by different smaller cable companies, the plaintiffs were too varied a group with too varying a range of potential damages to be considered an actual class.

This wasn’t the end of the road for the lawsuit; it just required that the plaintiff re-certify the class with a significantly narrower definition than it had previously.

That smaller group now includes cable TV customers in Philadelphia and four surrounding counties who currently subscribe to Comcast or subscribed between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2008.

The total value of the proposed settlement [PDF] — which will require the approval of a U.S. District Court judge — is now $50 million, of which $16.67 million is expected to be paid out in cash or credit to affected customers. Though don’t plan on buying a new car with the payout, as it will only be $15.

Current Comcast customers in the plaintiff class who choose to take the payout in Comcast services will have options, according to the proposal. Depending on their existing level of TV and/or Internet service, they will be able to choose from one of the following: six free pay-per-view movies; four months of free upgrade in Internet service from Performance Level to Blast! service; one free month upgrade from Blast! service to Extreme 105 service; or two free months of The Movie Channel.

The Movie Channel option is the default reward for affected current subscribers.

Once the proposed settlement is okayed by the court, affected customers will be notified and a website will be set up where customers can choose how to receive their payout.

[via Ars Technica]