Considering Suing Comcast for Failure to Provide Refund of Overpayment

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tl;dr: Comcast hasn’t sent a refund check and it’s been over 115 days since I closed my account. I’d like to sue. However, the city code doesn’t mention how long a company has to make a refund. Does that matter and what am I not considering in going forward with a suit?

Summary:

It’s been over 115 days since I closed my Comcast account in Washington, DC with a credit balance of over $150. No refund check has been sent and they’ve given me the run around so I’d like to sue in small claims court. Before filing, I wanted to run this by FWF so that I can be sure to consider all angles that help/hurt me and just drop the court idea if I’m being stupid.

Canceled by phone and was told Comcast needed to disconnect something outside the building within the next 4 weeks before issuing the refund.

Promptly returned all equipment and kept receipt.

1 week after cancellation Comcast called me to say their records show that I hadn’t returned a rental modem. I never had any rental equipment and my bills show no rental charges. Thought that it was resolved.

8 weeks after cancellation I was told again that I hadn’t returned the rental equipment. They started an investigation to be resolved within one week.

9 weeks after cancellation I was told matter resolved in my favor.

15 weeks after cancellation I received an email to say that, “We've updated your account to reflect that you've returned the following equipment”

16+ weeks (over 115 days since cancellation) I still don’t have a refund check.

Filed FTC complaint but they don’t try to intervene on behalf of individuals. Called DC Office of Cable Television and they agree it’s been way too long – but that’s not a legal opinion, just the rep I spoke with.

I now want to sue in small claims court, as the agreement with Comcast allows. § 28–3905 of the Washington, DC code allows for Treble damages, or $1,500 per violation, whichever is greater, payable to the consumer among other remedies. There’s also a possible $1,000 fine payable to the city for violation of the code. 

The code outlines various violations. What I can’t find is reference to the amount of time a company is allowed to take to make a refund. I can’t even find a clause that references that it must be made in a reasonable amount of time. Perhaps Comcast hasn’t violated the law? Finally, the service agreement indicates that Comcast will refund me but no time-frame is specified.

Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions as to what I should consider and how to approach this when not only asking for a full refund but also the other relief possibilities outlined in the local code.   

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comcrap or crapcast

tantuti (Feb. 07, 2017 @ 9:28p) |

I did this route with Comcast. Was at first expecting a prorated refund for the month I stopped service. Instead they se... (more)

norahs (Feb. 08, 2017 @ 9:12p) |

Just about every other TV ad commercial (promoting their Xfinity service) is about Comcast on the TV stations.  Just lik... (more)

fedguy (Feb. 09, 2017 @ 4:19p) |

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osaka75 said:   15 weeks after cancellation I received an email to say that, “We've updated your account to reflect that you've returned the following equipment”

16+ weeks (over 115 days since cancellation) I still don’t have a refund check.  

  
So you only gave them one week to cut the check and have it delivered to you? I'm not trying to defend them, just trying to be practical. If a check is coming it would seem like it would be a hassle to file a small claims suit, pay the filing fee, then come home the next day before Comcast is served to find a check in your mailbox.

You're right that a check may not be coming, but I would want to know that before paying fees. Imagine a scenario where that actually happens and you go to court to get the filing fee refunded also because they aren't willing to pay that to you only to have the court say - sorry, you got the refund within two weeks of them "updating" your account. Are you willing to risk that? Some people are, so if you are that's perfectly fine, you should just consider that possibility.

I would try social media, BBB, and whatever DC's version of an attorney general is. Do they have like a consumer protection division of the Mayor's office?

If you're looking for a $1,500 windfall for a $150 issue, it's possible you'll be disappointed (even if the ordinance allows for it).

ETA: Just to be clear, their actions would infuriate me as well. Depending on the situation I may be willing to take the risk of eating the filing fee (even if the only benefit is the chance that they'd have to pay more out of their pocket- $150 plus filing fee vs just $150, i.e. no punitive damages). However, you should know that small claims court is probably not the fastest, cheapest, easiest, or most convenient way to actually get the refund if that's what you're after.

They do this all the time. At least 2-3 times I have had to ask numerous time to get the refund. You turned in your box but didn't cancel...really. They know they can get away with it and many people never both to follow up or do not know that they charge you in advance and that they are even due a refund.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence - but I live in Washington DC and just today got a random email from Comcast with a receipt for returning a cable modem. I haven't returned a cable modem to them since at least 2010 in a different city, so not sure where it came from.

Whenever you think about small claims, first put your whole story in writing to your whoever you might be suing and send it by postal mail certified return receipt with photocopies, not originals, of any documents/receipts. Then wait whatever you think is a reasonable time to sue.

The judge will ask both sides (assuming they show up) to tell their side of the story. It is inevitably a he said she said thing. When when you can show that you nicely (and I stress nicely) spelled it out for them in a letter that they didn't respond to at all or responded to wrong, it's a lot easier for judge to rule in your favor than telling the judge I made a bunch of calls and they did nothing despite what they said on those calls. There is usually no way to prove what they said on the calls to you unless you legally recorded them from the beginning. Bringing in illegal recordings is not smart.

I had Verizon DSL and cancelled in 2008. They charged me for another two months, but they admitted the error and said they would refund in something like 8 weeks. Of course they didn't, I called back, they said another 2 months, I called again etc. After about a year I was out of the country and just gave up calling. 3 or 4 years later on a routine check for unclaimed funds, it posted and I got a check from the state...
If only they were that "flexible" with payments when it is the consumer the one who owes...
Good luck OP.

marginoferror said:   
osaka75 said:   15 weeks after cancellation I received an email to say that, “We've updated your account to reflect that you've returned the following equipment”

16+ weeks (over 115 days since cancellation) I still don’t have a refund check.  

  
So you only gave them one week to cut the check and have it delivered to you? I'm not trying to defend them, just trying to be practical. If a check is coming it would seem like it would be a hassle to file a small claims suit, pay the filing fee, then come home the next day before Comcast is served to find a check in your mailbox.

Thank you for your long response. I didn't consider social media maybe because I don't really use it. But it's a good idea.

​Regarding your comment about me only giving them one week, I thought that the issue was resolved at the one week mark at the end of their phone call to me. Then it was very clear that things were resolved in my favor at the 9 week mark. I don't understand the 6 week delay in them finding in my favor and finally sending me an email that confirms what I was told. The BBB is of no use, as most here know. The DC attorney general's office made a positive impression on me on the phone. However, that route will only get me back the amount of the refund. It won't do anything to encourage Comcast to stop these antics. Others below your response indicate bad experiences in getting money back from these type of companies and a Google search on Comcast brings up so many complaints of the same going back over a decade. It probably goes back much further. Therefore, I feel they should pay some sort of punitive damages for putting me through this if, in fact, they've done something illegal.

macguy said:   Whenever you think about small claims, first put your whole story in writing to your whoever you might be suing and send it by postal mail certified return receipt with photocopies, not originals, of any documents/receipts. Then wait whatever you think is a reasonable time to sue.

The judge will ask both sides (assuming they show up) to tell their side of the story. It is inevitably a he said she said thing. When when you can show that you nicely (and I stress nicely) spelled it out for them in a letter that they didn't respond to at all or responded to wrong, it's a lot easier for judge to rule in your favor than telling the judge I made a bunch of calls and they did nothing despite what they said on those calls. There is usually no way to prove what they said on the calls to you unless you legally recorded them from the beginning. Bringing in illegal recordings is not smart.

 I have recordings that I believe are legal based on my research on the topic. I'm not an attorney so I certainly could be wrong. They will show clearly that Comcast considered the issue resolved in my favor and that a refund would be forthcoming as well as the amount of the refund, about which Comcast and I are in agreement. However, I do wonder if I'll be allowed to submit the recordings.

A data point ...

12/31/16: Stopped at Xfinity store, returned equipment, cancelled service.
1/27/17: Credit Balance Refund
2/6/17: Rec'd check

YMMV

You rented a modem from comcrap? And now want to sue them in small claims court? For 150 dollars I don't think it's worth it. Try to call a supervisor and sweet talk your way in.

delhel said:   You rented a modem from comcrap? READ the OP.
  

You should sue them. This kind of crap is standard practice for Comcast. It took me approx 4 months to get a refund from Comcast when I moved Dec 2015. Really, legislators should impose a mandatory interest of say 9% on outstanding customer credits. Then refunds would be received in less than a week.

NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   delhel said:   You rented a modem from comcrap? READ the OP.
  

I did. No one should rent a modem from internet providers. It cost 50 dollars and pays for itself in 6 months. My point was, OP drained money down the drain.

delhel said:   
NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   
delhel said:   You rented a modem from comcrap?
READ the OP.
  

I did.


No, you didn't. Either that, or you didn't understand what you read.

I'm in Michigan and Comcast really tried to screw me with fictitious charges. I got lots of lies and runarounds on the phone from them. After a couple months I eventually got my refund after going into one of their physical stores and finding somebody willing to do their job. Their X1 service is really good in my area, too bad I don't plan on ever signing up with those creeps again because my time is too valuable to waste fighting with a terrible company like Comcast.

If you sue Comcast in small claims court, the first thing their lawyer will do is ask the judge to move the case to regular DC Superior Court, which the judge will likely grant. Then you will be subject to full rules governing discovery and adjudication, and you'll probably want a lawyer representing you.

Send them a demand letter, with proof of sending, and wait 30 days.

DogFase said:   If you sue Comcast in small claims court, the first thing their lawyer will do is ask the judge to move the case to regular DC Superior Court, which the judge will likely grant. Then you will be subject to full rules governing discovery and adjudication, and you'll probably want a lawyer representing you.
  Thanks for that info. If so, then in regular DC Superior Court I'm sure Comcast will then ask that it be removed to arbitration, as their service agreement mandates unless court is small claims. Hmm. I certainly don't want to go through what the other guy did in the thread on Citibank!

osaka75 said:   
marginoferror said:   
osaka75 said:   15 weeks after cancellation I received an email to say that, “We've updated your account to reflect that you've returned the following equipment”

16+ weeks (over 115 days since cancellation) I still don’t have a refund check.  

  
So you only gave them one week to cut the check and have it delivered to you? I'm not trying to defend them, just trying to be practical. If a check is coming it would seem like it would be a hassle to file a small claims suit, pay the filing fee, then come home the next day before Comcast is served to find a check in your mailbox.

Thank you for your long response. I didn't consider social media maybe because I don't really use it. But it's a good idea.

​Regarding your comment about me only giving them one week, I thought that the issue was resolved at the one week mark at the end of their phone call to me. Then it was very clear that things were resolved in my favor at the 9 week mark. I don't understand the 6 week delay in them finding in my favor and finally sending me an email that confirms what I was told. The BBB is of no use, as most here know. The DC attorney general's office made a positive impression on me on the phone. However, that route will only get me back the amount of the refund. It won't do anything to encourage Comcast to stop these antics. Others below your response indicate bad experiences in getting money back from these type of companies and a Google search on Comcast brings up so many complaints of the same going back over a decade. It probably goes back much further. Therefore, I feel they should pay some sort of punitive damages for putting me through this if, in fact, they've done something illegal.

  By social media - I don't really mean trying to spark a huge story. I have a twitter account, but it's only for the purpose of dealing with problems with companies. The people managing the twitter accounts of a lot of companies have more authority (or are more willing to help) than a lot of customer service reps. You can just setup a twitter account to send messages to companies.

As for the BBB - while the company themselves aren't particularly helpful, many legitimate companies don't like having unresolved complaints on BBB so a complaint will usually go to someone a little higher up to look at.

Also, I agree with the sentiment about Comcast. I did actually sue them personally, but I just think you should understand all of your options before you go forward with a particular decision.

You might also consider the local TV news stations. They like to do "ABC7 on your side" or "FOX 5 Fights For You" kind of stories. Consumer screwed by Megacorp is easy pickings for them.

I have a classmate that's on the management team at a local cable company. Complicated billing is BY DESIGN.

needhelpplease said:   I have a classmate that's on the management team at a local cable company. Complicated billing is BY DESIGN.
 Many of these companies basically have a duopoly while others have one or  two more competitors. They also enjoy government protection ( but do have to deal with some regulation). They usually have extremely healthy profits. It's very sad that they feel it necessary to essentially steal even more from their customers. I know that making it complicated isn't illegal but why the need for deception? It's easy to say that if customers don't like it they can choose to use another company or not use a service at all. However, in this industry (and I'm sure many others) it seems there are few good players. And very few people will choose to skip the service all together.   

NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   A data point ...

12/31/16: Stopped at Xfinity store, returned equipment, cancelled service.
1/27/17: Credit Balance Refund
TBD: Rec'd check

YMMV
2/6/17: Rec'd check
  

NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   
 
2/6/17: Rec'd check
  

  Thanks for the info. 37 days seems very reasonable.

osaka75 said:   
NoMoneyInMyWallet said:   
 
2/6/17: Rec'd check
  

  Thanks for the info. 37 days seems very reasonable.

  If you still don't receive the check after a while, I would email ecare@comcast.com.  I definitely wouldn't sue yet.

dukeblue219 said:   You might also consider the local TV news stations. They like to do "ABC7 on your side" or "FOX 5 Fights For You" kind of stories. Consumer screwed by Megacorp is easy pickings for them.
  
Bad customer service at Comcast?!?    What a scooop!!!    

 

jerosen said:   
dukeblue219 said:   You might also consider the local TV news stations. They like to do "ABC7 on your side" or "FOX 5 Fights For You" kind of stories. Consumer screwed by Megacorp is easy pickings for them.
  
Bad customer service at Comcast?!?    What a scooop!!!    

 

  Back when I was a many-year Comcast customer I would tell friends that the news people should do a story on my service.  Me being the only person in town with great service and experiences with Comcast. 

Note: too bad I had to cancel when their prices got way too high - then they really tried to screw me with billing issues.

comcrap or crapcast

dukeblue219 said:   You might also consider the local TV news stations. They like to do "ABC7 on your side" or "FOX 5 Fights For You" kind of stories. Consumer screwed by Megacorp is easy pickings for them.

I did this route with Comcast. Was at first expecting a prorated refund for the month I stopped service. Instead they sent me to collections claiming I owed them for breaking contract(not true).

After much back and forth and getting nowhere with Comcast and the collections company, I filled out a little form on 7onyourside website and got a direct email response from a Comcast rep a few days later. I was hoping it wouldn't escalate to a TV story or anything and it didn't. It sounded like someone from 7onyourside simply emailed this Comcast rep and asked them to look into it. Worked well for me in the end. Got the collections dropped and got my refund check in the mail.

osaka75 said:   
needhelpplease said:   I have a classmate that's on the management team at a local cable company. Complicated billing is BY DESIGN.
 Many of these companies basically have a duopoly while others have one or  two more competitors. They also enjoy government protection ( but do have to deal with some regulation). They usually have extremely healthy profits. It's very sad that they feel it necessary to essentially steal even more from their customers. I know that making it complicated isn't illegal but why the need for deception? It's easy to say that if customers don't like it they can choose to use another company or not use a service at all. However, in this industry (and I'm sure many others) it seems there are few good players. And very few people will choose to skip the service all together.   

  Just about every other TV ad commercial (promoting their Xfinity service) is about Comcast on the TV stations.  Just like with the auto makers and the cigarette commercials from past decades.



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