State Sues Comcast over Dodgy 'Service Protection Plan'

John Lister's picture

Washington state officials are suing Comcast for allegedly misleading customers over a service protection plan. The cable and broadband company is accused of selling a $4.99 a month plan that many customers didn't need, and which fell short of its promises.

The Comcast "Service Protection Plan" is promoted as covering the costs that would normally apply when a Comcast technician visits a home. The promotion claimed to have covered "all chargeable service calls for 3 ... XFINITY services without additional service fees."

Many Repairs Free, Anyhow

According to the state's Attorney General, the plan was unfairly marketed in two ways. Firstly, it says Comcast didn't do enough to make clear that many technical visits don't carry a charge anyway, thanks to an existing free 'Customer Guarantee' scheme. This includes repairs to the cable from the customer's cable connection socket to their cable box.

Secondly, it says Comcast didn't do enough to make clear that the paid plan had a key exception in that it did not cover the costs of repairing "wall-fished wiring." This means wires which are inside a wall, which often made up most of the cabling that might need to be repaired.

To add to the confusion, the terms and conditions use the terms "inside wiring" and "all inside-wiring related service calls" throughout, but don't mention the "wall-fished wiring" exclusion until the final paragraph.

Customer Savings a Fraction of Fees

According to the lawsuit, the plan "often ends up failing to cover any repairs at all." It says that between January 2013 and July 2015, customers paid a total of $73 million for the plan, but only saved a total of $5 million from the related service calls. (Source:

The case covers an alleged 1.8 million breaches of the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

At the time of writing, Comcast has not commented publicly on the detail of the lawsuit but said it would "vigorously defend" the case. It said it had previously worked with officials to deal with complaints about the plan and said: "Given that we were committed to continue working collaboratively with the Attorney General's office, we're surprised and disappointed that they have instead chosen litigation." (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Have you ever bought a service plan for your broadband or cable service? Do you fully understand what it does and doesn't cover? Should providers do more to make sure customers make informed choices?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (4 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

I'm willing to bet that there are other service providers offering similar "service protection plans" that offer up about as much "protection" as what Comcast is offering. These companies are making insane amounts of money screwing over their customers daily - cellular roaming is probably one of the biggest scams of all. The problem is that there simply isn't enough competition for the consumer to 'stick it to the big guy' when they get screwed over like this. Contracts also make it near-impossible to switch providers. At any rate, I hope Washington State is able to prove their case and set a nice example for the rest of the industry.

nate04pa's picture

1. I have been a Comcast TV customer for about 25 years and never paid anything for a service call. The problems that I had were 3 bad cable boxes (replaced free) and a defective trap on the pole (also repaired free).

2. The likelihood of problems with wall-fished wiring properly installed is very low. Many cable installers will not fish walls; it takes too much time. They run the cable through the wall to the TV set(s). Most of the wiring is outside the home.

3. When I was a Verizon landline customer, they offered a repair plan which covered inside wiring. Again, properly installed inside wiring is the least likely portion of residential telephone service to go bad. All my losses of service were caused by problems in the outside wiring (their responsibility).

4. I agree with you that there is not enough competition. The investment required is so great that only large entities like Comcast and Verizon are able to provide it. The answer is reasonable regulation but I am not holding my breath.

matt_2058's picture

A $5/month interior wiring service plan is reasonable to someone that doesn't understand it. I think every company is trying to milk the consumer for anything/everything they can get away with. I hope the state wins.

In over 20 yrs of being in the military, I've had most major providers. As you've said, the interior wires rarely fail. Failure in rentals or apartments is usually from pulling the wire out of the wall (no jack installed, just a pigtail) or nails and screws from hanging stuff. The techs always did the repairs during install of my service.

I don't think many people understand there is a difference in installations with basic exterior perimeter or 'custom' in-wall. I think the providers should have to CLEARLY inform the customer of their standard install procedure....staple the cable under the eaves and drill a hole from the outside into every room needing service. If they knew the potential resulting damage, they'd skip the plan and that perimeter repair.

And since we're talking about a fee that is a questionable revenue increaser....
I noticed on my last truck oil change a $3 charge for ....get this....consumer privacy compliance fee. Then I get a letter in the mail with the terms of using their coupon...all my information is now shared with Bank of Amer. as if I had their credit card. Ridiculous.

n7mpj's picture

I have lived in Washington State most of my life until 1997. The utilities commission are in bed with all of the phone and internet companies. I could not even get a break on any of them as far as "Deals" or "Plans".

When I went back recently to tie up my parent's affairs I was able to see what they paid for in Ferndale, WA as far as Comcast which is tied to Xfinity. It was outlandish and capped at 250 gigs. And the TV package was limited with each choice of package. Also Comcast and Xfinity, once in your computer system, you can't get rid of them even if you go into the Windows DOS exe shell to delete. They're buried in there. You have to do a total reformat on your hard drive to get rid of them.

I love my DirecTV and Business Spectrum Internet here in Northern Nevada. My AT&T (wired) landline too is awesome. There are too many communication limitations in Washington State. Compare the differences.