The bait and switch tactic of selling goods and services is a trick as old as time, but it’s not always legal. If a customer signs a contract agreeing to pay a particular price for something, it is expected that the price will not change for the duration of the contract, unless both parties agree to the change in writing. That change can happen, either as an amendment to the contract, or as part of a new contract.
According to a federal class action consumer lawsuit that was recently filed in California, Comcast allegedly lured new cable customers with promises of low rates, which they then jacked up without warning or gaining consent from their customers. The fees in question are: the “Broadcast TV Fee,” which allegedly went from $1.50/month in 2014 to $6.50/month in 2016; and the “Regional Sports Fee,” which allegedly went from $1/month in 2015 to $4.50 in 2016.
When customers complained to Comcast, they were allegedly told by company representatives that the fees were government-related taxes or fees over which the company said it had no control – an assertion the plaintiffs claim is a blatant lie.
Comcast asked the court to dismiss all the claims put forth by the plaintiffs, saying its online order submission process was not enough to constitute a legally-binding contract. On the other hand, the Subscriber Agreement and Minimum Term Agreement were binding contracts in which the customers had allegedly agreed to pay Comcast’s fees.
Judge Vince Chhabria, of the U.S. District Court of Northern California, rejected Comcast’s motion to dismiss, saying that, by submitting their order, Comcast customers were agreeing to pay Comcast’s advertised prices, in addition to government-related taxes and fees. Chhabria denied Comcast’s assertion that consumers agreed to its higher fees in the Subscriber Agreement. As far as the Minimum Term Agreement was concerned, the plaintiffs allege they never saw it when submitting their order, in which case they cannot be bound by its terms. Chhabria said the plaintiffs had plausibly asserted that they never saw the agreement, although determining it in fact will have to be left to the more in-depth analysis of a summary judgment. Continue reading