About

  • TheWatchdogBlog.org is published by Public Citizen's Congress Watch. We work to ensure that Congress represents citizens by exposing the harmful impact of money in politics and fighting for an improved democracy. We also champion consumer interests before the U.S. Congress and seek to preserve citizen access to the courts to redress corporate harm and negligence.



Our Mascot

  • Our mascot, Brandice
Statement of Policies

« A Good Day for Consumer Justice | Main | The Power of People Over Profit »

Protect Your Rights – Opt Out of the "Comcastic" Fine Print

This month, Comcast consumers in Maryland had a little pamphlet called "Arbitration Notice" quietly slipped into their cable bill.

All the legalese can be boiled down to one sentence: "You have 30 days to opt-out of being automatically enrolled in our arbitration clause, thereby forfeiting your right to settle disputes with Comcast in a court of law in a trial by judge or jury."

This unfair and stealthy move by Comcast strips consumers of their rights. Access to justice in the courts is a longstanding cornerstone of corporate accountability.  Arbitration, on the other hand, is a private system stacked in favor of corporations – and an arbitrator’s decision, even if it’s wrong or absurd, cannot be appealed on the merits. 

Comcast is not just bullying consumers in Maryland, whose deadline to opt-out is July 15, 2007.  They are forcing consumers elsewhere into giving up their rights.  The mandatory binding arbitration is now a fixture in the Comcast “Terms of Use”.

Here’s how to stand up to Comcast and its corporate bullying:

  • Opt Out: Go to Comcast's online opt-out form and preserve your rights (Don't forget to check the opt-out box!).  This will NOT affect your service.
  • Make Noise: Call up Comcast – 1-800-COMCAST (1-800-266-2278) – and complain that they are automatically enrolling customers into their arbitration clause.  Demand to be allowed to opt-out of the binding mandatory arbitration clause!
  • Tell a friend: email this post to friends and family.

You also can support the newly introduced legislation to ban the most egregious uses of binding mandatory arbitration clauses.  Be sure to tell us about your experiences with Comcast in the comments section below.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83452507269e200e008d7bcc08834

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Protect Your Rights – Opt Out of the "Comcastic" Fine Print:

Comments

Susan Raybuck

I'm in central Texas...no Comcast here. What action, if any, should I take? Opting out doesn't seem to apply to me.

Neal Bishop

This form will not take my account number. Will not accept the opt out request. Neal Bishop

Cynthia Glentzes

I have Comcast in Charleston, SC....besides being too expensive , have not gotten anything yet in bill?

Angela Canterbury

Thanks for the comments. If you aren't a Comcast customer, then your friends and family across the country will thank you for alerting them to this strongarmming. Comcast operates in 39 states and the District of Columbia.

Neal, and others, if the form doesn't work for you, then you should definitely call Comcast to complain and insist that they allow you to opt out.

Chowbutt

I got this notice via the publiccitzen mailing list. Good to know about this. I am in California but went ahead and entered my info. It didn't reject my opt-out. I still need to know if they did the same thing to their California customers....

Helen Gex Greer

Although I have a different service, I strongly disapprove of any company setting a dangerous precedent for other businesses to follow. Remember, you're offering a service to customers, not their master.

Sherry

Comcast disconnected my service several years ago shortly after I switched from their regular service to the budget plan. I changed the service in May and received only a partial payment bill in June. Since I was busy traveling and also hate to waste a stamp to send in such a small amount, I though I'd wait and pay it with the next full bill (received in July & due in August). About 8 days before the August bill was due, I had the check in my car ready to be mailed. Unexpectedly my cable went off. I called the company to report the problem and they said my service was cut off for lack of payment. They claimed they use some automated calculation for number of days since a payment was received. I explained the situation, spoke with a supervisor, etc., but they refused to reinstate my service until I had paid a reconnection fee. Was this just retaliation against consumers not purchasing their premium packages? I still have not reconnected and will not have cable again until another provider is available in my area.
Sherry

Richard Sam Salmon

It is time to stop the privatization drive and start nationalizing all utility companies. Even to begin with real non-profits not just tax exempt. Every worker in a trade union and no member of management making over $100,000.00 in salary. No perks for management. No golden parachutes for mamagement and no more mergers.

Kathryn Kern-Levine

I do not have the arbitration notice in this month's bill, which came in the mail today. BUT I DO HAVE ANOTHER LITTLE NOTICE IN THE BILL: It says that effective July 21, 2007, Comcast may require an equipment fee when connecting, reconnecting, or upgrading Comcast services. Given the number of times our system has "disconnected itself" and the obvious problems I have observed with faulty equipment being used, I am incensed about this.

It was my understanding that these costs, which are the costs of doing business, were including in our monthly cable bill.


I have a raft of Comcast complaints on file with my local Cable TV Advisory Commission, which I understand is run through the Town of Leesburg, Virginia in Loudoun County. Their email contact address is TWatkins@leesburgva.gov

Please help! Thanks. Kathryn Kern-Levine; Leesburg, VA

Tony

We are stuck with Comcast. They are the only one allowed in Independence, Mo. They have 3 internet services. $39 for SLOW, $42 for ??? , and $52 for supposedly FAST. RoadRunner has ONE price of $29.95 and I know it is FAST. Why don't we have a choice ? What happened to the MONOPOLY LAWS in this Country ?

Maryanne

I live in Delaware and checked my Comcast bill. Sure enought the notice was there and I hadn't even looked at it. We must notify them by Sunday, July 15, also. But, I couldn't fill out the form b/c it wouldn't take the state name.

Ed Fortney

I opted out online, but not without difficulty. Make sure you type your account number in EXACTLY as it appears on your bill. That includes spaces and dashes. Make sure you put a dash before the last number of your account number - that's what gave me the problem.

Gary

I also received this pamphlet with my bill in Massachusetts but assumed it was junk and recycled it. Thanx for the heads up!

fanny

I just opted out on their online form. I am in Minnesota.
One thought occurs to me however: if the majority of people (such as myself) don't read the "junk mail" that comes with the monthly bills, they will have to use arbitration in a class action suit if one should be brought, and those of us who opted out won't be able to (if I understand their website message about this correctly).

Bruce

I have tried every variation of my Comcast Account # and it will not let me use the opt-out on-line form. I am writing my County Cable Board and my congressman NOW this fraud.

Bruce
Montgomery County, Maryland

(I feel your pain Neal!)

Serryjw

I have CC for all my services. I think they are great. I have no downtime on my internet. They have only the nicest customer service people that pend over backwards to be helpful. WHAT am I opting out of? This may soound like I work for CC but honestly I don't. I couldn't be happier with them.sorry

Allan Kaufman

The opt out form asked me for date of welcome package. What does this mean and what date should I use or does it not matter?

Country Maron

I never thought I'd miss Adelphia until Comcast took over. They've dropped the west coast feeds of my premium movie channels and haven't reduced my bill. They claim that since it was the same programs at different times it isn't a reduction in services. Then they moved FOX Movies into a package that's otherwise all sports channels I don't want. I opted out of that package instead of paying $10. extra just for FOX Movies. Now they got rid of AmericanLife TV Network which was a basic digital channel that runs baby boomer era old TV shows that aren't anywhere else like the Man and Girl from U.N.C.L.E., 77 Sunset Strip, etc...But I was able to do the opting out of arbitration thing. Thank you Public Citizen!

Ed Fortney

Bruce, as this blog clearly states, you would have been opting out of binding arbitration. Since you didn't opt out, you haven give up your Constitutional right to have a redress of grievances in a court of law. Here is a link to an article on MSN entitle "Arbitration Ties Consumers Hands" - http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/ConsumerActionGuide/ArbitrationTiesConsumersHands.aspx?page=1

Here's the nutshell of the article:

"Businesses love binding arbitration. For them it's a faster and cheaper way to settle disputes and a great way to generate debt collections."

"I think binding arbitration is bad for a number of reasons, chiefly because it guts the U.S. Constitution, which is the one document that makes our country unique," says David Rumley, an attorney with Wigington Rumley in Corpus Christi, Texas, who has worked on binding-arbitration cases. "Here, an ordinary person can take a big corporation to court and get a hearing in front of a jury of his or her peers." Binding arbitration, Rumley argues, is weighted in favor of big business."

Thank you, Public Citizen, for bringing this to my attention!

Jane

I can't see how assent to this arbitration "agreement" can legally be imputed to consumers. It is a basic tenet of contract law that there must be meaningful assent by all parties to the contract and terms within it. Comcast cannot send literature to customers, already bombarded with ongoing sales campaigns, and turn that "notice" into a binding contract. This kind off alleged "contract formation" should not be sustainable if challenged and heard before a court of law.

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.