Friday, July 27, 2007

Preserve Your Rights

Montgomery County officials are warning Comcast customers to study their July bill closely. The July bill contains a notification of an upcoming change to the terms-of-service agreement with an opportunity to refuse within 30 days of receipt of the bill.

In short, Comcast wants you to give up a number of rights you currently have and instead agree to, well, something less.

Specifically, Comcast is changing your terms of service so that you agree to resolve disputes with Comcast through arbitration. In return, you relinquish your "right to pursue any legal remedies against Comcast in court, including claims for negligence, fraud or intentional wrongdoing." Nor can you join in a class-action lawsuit. Plus you accept limits on times in which you may file claims. However, Comcast reserves the right to seek similar remedies in return.

That's fair, right?

Obviously, this is heavily tilted in Comcast's favor. So why would you agree? Because it's in the fine print that no one reads and is structured as an "opt-out" meaning that you agree if you do nothing - which is what most people will do when trying to plow through a stack of bills, each filled with the usual advertising and other extras that are discarded within seconds of slitting open the envelope.

If Comcast really wanted you to know about the change, they would advertise it in the same way that they market all their promotions - using numerous commercials, flyers, and emails.

But their current approach combined with the opt-out technique is unethical. And it appears to violate the franchise agreement as well.

According to the franchise...
Copies of all notices, promotional or special offers sent to Subscribers and any agreements used with Subscribers shall be filed promptly with the County. All forms and notices distributed to customers which describe customer service policies and procedures shall be subject to County approval.

According to the Cable Office, this prior approval was not sought. The county has not stated if it will seek penalties or for Comcast to cancel the change for Montgomery County customers who fail to respond.

I recommend you take no chances and opt-out. To do so online, visit comcast.com/arbitrationoptout and fill out the form. You will need your Comcast account number from your bill. Print a copy of the form before submission and a copy of the acknowledgment after submission.

I'd like to hear if anyone recognized the notification when they were going through their bill. I'm also interested to know if customers on Comcast's automatic bill-pay plan were notified. Anyone? [sound of crickets]

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Don for this notification.
I saw nothing on my Comcast bill about opting out, nor was there a separate paper describing this option.
I just opted out!

Anonymous said...

When typing in your account number you must type it in just like it appears on your bill. You must include any spaces and hyphens.

cedarwaxwing said...

Hi Don - I noticed the notification when I read my bill, but was so upset about the charges* that it took second place in my mind. We didn't opt-out, but will now. Thanks for the heads- up

I am highly frustrated with their service - at least 5 outages (phone, internet, television) in the three short months that we've been with them.

Dona (former pylenet moderator)

*$30-something more than the contract indicated