Nearly two years after Consumerist reader Robert shut down his business-tier service with Comcast, he’s still fighting with the nation’s largest broadband provider over a $1,775 early termination fee that should not have been assessed. Comcast even admits the money shouldn’t have been debited from Robert’s bank account, but now says it’s his responsibility to sort the mess out with his bank.
Robert tells Consumerist he first signed on with Comcast for his small business in early 2011, agreeing to a two-year contract, which came and went in 2013 without any ceremony.
In an effort to save money in 2014, Robert called to have their service level downgraded to a more affordable rate. Shortly thereafter, correctly believing that he was out of contract, he cancelled his Comcast service.
That should have been the end of the story, but only weeks after closing the Comcast account, the boys from Kabletown decided that Robert was not out of contract, debiting $1,775.44 from the checking account tied to the Comcast service.
“After several calls I was told a blank contract was created without my signature,” Robert explained in an email to Consumerist, but even then Comcast was admitting it was an error and that Robert should receive a refund check.
Skip forward to Jan. 2015 — two months after being told he’d get made whole; still no check.
Robert says that when he called Comcast, “the rep actually laughed when I told her I didn’t get a check yet. She said it would take three months.”
The check still didn’t come, and repeated attempts to get an answer or an actual refund from Comcast went nowhere.
When he called again in June 2015, Robert says the response was “Ohh sorry, we messed up but the check is getting sent out now.”
He says Comcast repeated that sentiment again in Aug. 2015, then again in Jan. 2016: “We made a mistake and this time the check is really getting sent out.”
More recently, he received an email from someone at Comcast “Executive Customer Relations,” claiming to have reviewed his account.
“[I]t does appear the Early Termination Fee (ETF) applied to your Comcast Business account was done in error,” reads the email, confirming what Robert had already been told, but at least this was in writing, so Comcast has to do something, right?
“I understand you’re claiming that someone advised you Comcast would send a refund check for the last payment that was debited but this is generally not the way we handle these situations,” continues the condescending email. “We generally only issue a refund check for a disconnected account with a credit balance leftover. For your situation, you would have to dispute the payment with your bank.”
So… Comcast took almost $1,800 from his account — and has had it in its coffers for nearly two years — and instead of sending him a check for the full amount, plus interest and a spiral-cut ham with a gift card to Universal Studios, he is now supposed to try to explain this all to his bank?
Robert even replied to the Comcast rep, asking him how long Comcast would allow a customer to owe $1,775 without being sent to collections. A response to that question is presumably not forthcoming.
This all didn’t seem right to us, so we took the issue to Comcast HQ, which didn’t comment on Robert’s story but promised to look into it.
Not even two hours later, that same Comcast rep wrote with good news.
“More information just came in,” reads the email, which explains that an ETF credit was indeed applied to his account in Dec. 2014, but “through some error the refund check never generated.”
According to the email, Comcast is sending a check — totez 4 realz this time, swearzies! — and that Robert will have it within 7-10 business days.
Robert’s response was understandably muted: “Hopefully this time they are actually sending me a check.”
What’s unclear is whether or not Robert would be able to file a lawsuit against Comcast. The company’s current terms of service include a forced arbitration clause that prohibit customers from suing Comcast for any reason in a court of law. However, it looks like the terms he initially agreed to did not include such a clause.
We’re not lawyers and we can’t say whether someone in Robert’s situation does or doesn’t have a case, but we can say that this is exactly the kind of situation where a customer should at least be able to consider the option of pursuing their claim against a company instead of being contractually obligated to have that claim heard through the bizarre, business-friendly process of binding arbitration.
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