Minnesota is suing Comcast for sucking so bad it could be illegal

Comcast/Xfinity is accused of charging customers for removing services they didn't even ask for, and much, much more.

Comcast/Xfinity is accused of charging customers for removing services they didn't even ask for, and much, much more. Getty Images/iStockphoto

There's a prevailing sentiment among cable TV customers: Comcast sucks. The company, which is the nation's biggest cable provider, changed its name to Xfinity in 2010 specifically because everyone knew Comcast sucked.

But according to a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, it allegedly sucks so bad it might actually be illegal. Here, according to the complaint, is why:

Xfinity charges you a monthly base price, but you could end up paying 30 percent or more on top of that due to a litany of “fees” that you may (or may not) know about. Like fees for renting and installing cable boxes and modems.

Or the “HD Technology fee,” which makes people who get high-def cable pay another $120 a year.

Or the new-as-of-2015 “Broadcast TV fee,” which helps the company recover “some of the costs of retransmitting broadcast television signals.” Prior to 2015, the price customers already paid for cable seemed to cover that pretty nicely. But if you’re going by Xfinity’s prices, the cost of airing television has been skyrocketing. That fee started at $1.50 per month. It’s $10.

Then there's the “Regional Sports fee,” which hit MInnesotans that same year. Why? Xfinity needed to recover the cost of airing some “regional sports networks,” which has shot up from $1 a month to $8 a month.

According to the complaint, Xfinity assured its customers through last year that it has no control over these wily numbers, and that “those fees are actually local fees and correspond to the FCC [Federal Communications Commission]. In other words, the company is claiming they're not up to Comcast, but instead due to taxes and the quirks of operating in Minnesota. 

But the attorney general is calling BS. Xfinity, it says, is “not required by any state or federal law to collect such fees.”

And that’s not all. The complaint also says Xfinity “misrepresented” how much cable TV packages actually cost in the first place, charged for products customers didn’t even order, and promised customers prepaid Visa cards worth up to $200 for signing up. Yet it often never sent those cards.

In the meantime, customers are ticked.

Just ask the customers in 2014 who were charged for phone service they never wanted, and were then charged a $130 “early termination fee” for removing it.

Or the customer in 2015, who returned a modem to an Xfinity store and somehow got charged $5 and upgraded to “Blast internet.”

Or the customer in 2016 who simply called to inquire about a cable package, only to receive equipment and monthly bills she never signed up for. She was subsequently referred to a collections agency because she hadn’t been paying for services she never knew she had.

Xfinity’s staying cool about the whole thing. A company statement says “the facts simply do not support” Swanson’s allegations, “most of which date back several years and have already been corrected.” Xfinity has always preferred to work “collaboratively” with the attorney general’s office to “resolve any remaining issues,” and bringing a lawsuit at the end of the attorney general’s term is “simply not in the best interests of Minnesota consumers.”

But Swanson isn’t the only one picking a bone with Xfinity. The company was sued by the Washington state attorney general for tacking on “service protection plans” to accounts without customers’ permission in 2016. It settled with the FCC for adding unordered merchandise and services to accounts in 2017. And it promised the Massachusetts attorney general not to charge customers more than promised no more than two months ago.

Swanson is encouraging Xfinity customers to take stock of all the services they’re getting, including the monthly price, and reporting any complaints to her office ([email protected]).