Comcast Still Screwing Up Discount For Elderly Customers In St. Paul

Broadband competition (or specifically, its absence) in the Twin Cities.

Broadband competition (or specifically, its absence) in the Twin Cities.

Weeks after we told you about Comcast’s apparent ignorance of its mandated discount for elderly residents in the Minnesota city of St. Paul, customers there say the company still has its head in the sand and is refusing to properly honor requests from eligible consumers.

A quick refresher for those not up-to-date on Minnesota cable news, for 15 years Comcast’s franchise agreement [PDF] with St. Paul has required that the cable company, which dominates the pay-TV and broadband market in the city, offer a discount of 10%/month on service for “Senior citizens, Persons with disabilities and Persons who are Economically disadvantaged.”

Approximately 24% of the St. Paul population lives in poverty and 9% of the population are senior citizens. Taking into account the overlap of these two groups, around 1-in-4 residents could be eligible for the discount.

But even though the savings were available for more than a decade, many St. Paul residents weren’t aware — and neither were a lot of Comcast reps. After the local media mentioned the discount, numerous consumers complained that Comcast told them they were misinformed or mistaken and that the program didn’t exist.

After the public humiliation of being called out for failing to know about its own agreement with the city, Comcast apologized and said it was “communicating with all customer care representatives to make certain they are aware of the discount and the qualification process for St. Paul customers.”

Alas, the latest report from the Pioneer Press indicates that Comcast continues to turn away customers or provide them with confusing or incorrect information.

One 66-year-old customer says she tried to get the discount but was told it only applied low-income seniors. Since she’s not considered low-income, she was told she was not eligible.

Paperwork mailed to the customer only backed up Comcast’s lack of understanding about its own discount program.

Instead of paperwork asking the customer to confirm her age, she instead received a form titled, “Low Income Discount Affidavit: Seniors or Disability,” which required her to prove her adjusted gross annual income totaled less than $17,500.

Additionally, the form compels the signer to agree that “I will not be eligible for the discount if I am receiving any promotional offer or my services are incorporated into a digital value package.”

And a rep for Comcast confirms that “Yes, customers who have bundled packages are ineligible for the discount because the bundled package already is offered at a discounted rate.”

However, there is nothing in the St. Paul franchise agreement that seems to give Comcast the ability to invalidate the discount if a customer bundles her cable/Internet/phone services. The Pioneer Press reports that the city is looking into this clause of the Comcast document.

This seems to be a problem hitting several elderly St. Paul residents.

One woman says she was told she couldn’t get the discount because she was already receiving one and “you have to have certain equipment in your home.”

A 69-year-old man likewise had no luck at the Comcast store. “I was told I wasn’t eligible because I already receive a discount for bundling cable, phone and Internet,” he told the Pioneer Press.

The most ridiculously Comcastic experience comes from a woman who was told she could only get the discount through her local Comcast — sorry, Xfinity — store. When she explained that she had no car and asked for the number of that store so she could call, “The rep told me ‘because of security reasons’ he could not give that number out. I politely thanked him and hung up.”