The Attorney General for the State of California announced a settlement with Comcast, the telecommunications provider, to resolve allegations that the company listed telephone customers' numbers which should have remained unlisted.
The settlement includes $33 million in payments. The settlement requires Comcast to pay $25 million in penalties and investigative costs to the California Department of Justice and to the California Public Utilities Commission. Comcast will also pay about $8 million in restitution to 75,000 VOIP (e.g., Internet-based phone) customers whose numbers were improperly disclosed.
The restitution payment includes two years worth of refunds the affected customers paid for unlisted services. That equals about $2 million. Comcast will also pay and additional $100 to each customer whose safety was compromised by the disclosure of their phone listings and personal information. These customers include law enforcement personnel and domestic violence victims.
Additional terms of the settlement:
"As part of the stipulated judgment filed today in Alameda Superior Court, Comcast has agreed to a permanent injunction that requires the company to improve how it handles customer complaints and to strengthen the restrictions it places on its vendors’ use of personal information about customers. The injunction will require Comcast to provide a simple and easy-to-read disclosure form to all customers that explains the ways in which it uses unlisted phone numbers and other personal information."
Kudos to the California Attorney General and her staff for this settlement. Comcast's actions makes one doubt the company can keep private information it should keep private. It also makes one wonder where else in the country it has listed consumers phone numbers that should have remained unlisted.
Earlier this year, there was talk that Comcast's cable TV unit was improving its customer service. Well, the company's latest blunder undoes any goodwill created from that, and reinforces negative perceptions.