After a two-year investigation, Minnesota has officially become the third U.S. state to sue Xfinity. The lawsuit, organized by Attorney General Lori Swanson, alleges that the cable giant increased fees by as much as 700 percent, violating consumer protection laws.
Small fees had become so bloated that customers reported increases of up to 30 percent on their monthly bills. According to a report by the Associated Press, Xfinity was regularly charging consumers for services they weren’t receiving, equipment they didn’t order, and had failed to deliver on promises of subscriber rewards in the form of pre-loaded Visa gift cards.
On Friday, Swanson announced the lawsuit surrounded by 15 Xfinity subscribers who had been victimized by the company. “It’s hard to shop around for cable services if the company is playing hide-the-ball on fees,” she said to CBS Minnesota.
Swanson went on to explain that thousands of customers across the state had been overcharged, or fallen prey to nefarious hidden fees. She claims that Xfinity would promise a locked in promotional price for a period of 1-2 years, and then tack on “undisclosed fees,” raising that price by up to 30 percent.
The surprise charges prompted outrage, but subscribers were often told that they had no recourse. Consumers had signed a contract, and were locked into their cable services until the specified time period was up. Or, they had the option to pay an exorbitant penalty to end the contract prematurely.
One of the offending fees covered access to regional sports, and was gradually raised from just $1 in 2015, to $8 on the most recent bills. This 700 percent increase led to an additional $96 for an entire year. The problem with many of these types of fees is that the customers weren’t given an option, or necessarily deriving any benefit from the charges. The “regional sports” fee was charged to every subscriber, regardless of their interest in, or access to sporting events.
Xfinity has released a statement denying all of the allegations, and claiming that Attorney General Swanson had ignored any attempts at communication on their part. Jill Hornbacher, a spokeswoman for the cable company, said, “We fully disclose all charges, fees and promotional requirements.”
She continued, saying, “The facts do not support the Minnesota Attorney General’s allegations, and we’d like nothing more than to work collaboratively with the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office; however, they’ve raised complaints about matters that date back several years and have largely ignored our efforts to work together to address them.”
Swanson met Xfinity’s denial with a healthy dose of skepticism, going as far as to accuse the company of changing its name from “Comcast” to distance itself from horrendous user reviews. In November, Xfinity settled a similar lawsuit in Massachusetts, agreeing to pay out or forgive over $950,000 in customer debt.
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