Comcast owes me $10 million – can you help me get it?

By | May 19th, 2016

Michelle Frias wants $10 million from Comcast. No joke. That’s what she says the value of her claim against the cable giant is.

Ten. Million. Dollars.

But this isn’t a story about a company accidentally sending a customer an eight-figure bill. This is more of a case study in how not to file a complaint. Her problem, while it may be legitimate, is rendered inert by damage numbers in much the same way playing the disabled veteran card effectively killed this recent Comcast case.

It’s a reminder for all of us to stick to the facts and keep a level head when we’re filing a grievance over bad service.

Frias canceled her Comcast service last November “because my bill kept getting higher and higher,” she says. That’s a familiar story. Comcast loves to raise your bills, often without adequate notification.

She called to see if Comcast could adjust her bill back to the number she’d agreed to, and she says a representative agreed. But the bill rose anyway and she refused to pay the extra amount, and you can probably guess where that ended.

“I received a letter from a collection agency last month for Comcast,” she says.

Frias phoned Comcast. I’ll let her describe what happened next:

I asked her nicely if the representative could “please” send me an itemized bill. She said she couldn’t.

She was getting argumentative with me. I asked for the number of Comcast’s president. I told her I will not pay this outrageous bill; I then expressed to her I will speak to my attorney.

All I’m asking for is an itemized bill. The amount I’m disputing went from over $200 to $400. Comcast should be ashamed of themselves and who they hire, I hear so many horror stories of this company and will never refer this company to anyone!

Ah-ha! So the actual amount in dispute is $200, not $10 million. Thanks for the clarification.

You know, misunderstandings like this are a dime a dozen in my line of work. Comcast will bury the fine print in its terms — one year for $49, the second year is $79. Two year contract required. Customers just don’t read the fine print, nor should they have to become amateur lawyers when they’re signing up for cable and internet service.

I’ll probably ask Comcast to help Frias once she sends the paperwork. But why hasn’t it done anything yet? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Or should I say, the ten million dollar question.

When Frias asserted that her claim was worth $10 million — an obvious exaggeration — it said a lot about her state of mind. Also, the part about calling her attorney for a $200 bill is an obvious bluff.

It screamed: Don’t take this claim seriously.

Now, that’s not to say she doesn’t have a valid claim. It just means that she didn’t do herself any favors by inflating the damages and by threatening to take this to litigation. On a side note, many companies will send letters like this, which threaten to get attorneys involved, to their own legal department. There, the lawyers coolly assess whether they believe the customer will actually take the company to court. In her case, small claims court.

Lesson learned? Don’t exaggerate, don’t litigate and don’t hyperventilate. A calm head and facts will take you farther than anything else. Even farther than having a consumer advocate in your corner.

Should I advocate for Michelle Frias?

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  • I voted yes…because her case would make an interesting class action lawsuit…I am not sure what for…but I would love for anyone to sue Comcast.

    On a slightly more serious note, I have often wondered if there would ever be a class action lawsuit regarding 20 page agreements for basic services like this.

    You make a great point, Chris, one should NOT have to become an amateur lawyer to secure a service. Which means…is there REALLY a meeting of the minds? As I understand it, that meeting of the minds is a basic tenet of contract law.

    I mean The Constitution is one page long…but my cable contract is 5 pages long? Seriously? The same thing goes for rental car agreements and the like.

    I wonder how many people truly “agree” to the terms to which they sign. I suspect THAT claim would be in the BILLIONS of dollars.

  • sirwired

    “It’s a reminder for all of us to stick to the facts and keep a level head when we’re filing a grievance over bad service.”

    It’s not unheard of for a consumer’s hand from the Card Deck of Misery to be presented in grievances detailed here; it’s inconsistent to tell consumers that they should not include irrelevant information when filing a grievance (I agree with this advice) but then include that exact same information in the articles, as if that’s supposed to make a difference to the case and a company is heartless for not taking it into account.

    In any case, as soon as a consumer mentions lawyer/lawsuit/liability/AG/etc. the case is effectively immune to advocacy. The only time a consumer should mention those things is as an FYI after actually filing a lawsuit/contacting a lawyer, etc. Threats are counter-productive.

  • Tom McShane

    She’d a had a good shot at it if she had asked for a $10 million voucher

  • KennyG

    Once she hit the “I am gonna call my lawyer” button, she effectively told Comcast to have no one but their legal department speak with anyone. Of course, this is assuming you arent playing a late Aprils Fools joke on us by presenting such a ludicrous claim. :-}

  • RBXChas

    There’s likely an arbitration clause in that 20-page contract.

  • Peter

    My condolences to anyone who practices “cable accounting” law.

  • sirwired

    The Constitution is far longer than a single page. Not including any amendments, it is four very large pages with pretty small print.

  • I stand corrected. While Articles III through VII are about 1 page, Articles I & II are nearly 3 pages. Thank you for correcting me.

    However, the broader point…is that if we can run a country in under 4 pages for 227 years, surely a rental agreement can be made simpler.

  • Altosk

    Um…she thinks her annoyance is worth $10M over a $200 bill? Yeah, no. Steer clear of this one. The crazy, it burns.

  • LFH0

    While the $10 million amount may have no basis, it may be that Ms. Frias has a family member who is an attorney, and she may well intend to talk to that family membeer about a $200 (since family members who are attorneys usually do not charge for their services).

  • Chris Johnson

    Anything that will make Comcast suffer and consume their resources is fine with me. I don’t care how ridiculous Michelle’s claim is, the management of that company never seems to learn its lesson. I haven’t had their service since 2004 and reading stories about the crap they pull still pisses me off. They have a monopoly in most markets for their service so they won’t ever be shutting down, but if yet another lawsuit cuts into their profits, maybe they’ll understand treating customers the way they do is morally wrong.

  • Rebecca

    I am seriously beginning to lose my faith in humanity here. What ever happened to treating fellow human beings with respect? I think I’m officially old.

  • Fishplate

    ” I then expressed to her I will speak to my attorney.”

    That’s the equivalent of dropping the mic. Once you play that card, you’re done with Customer Service. I suggest the OP speak to that attorney, and let us know the resolution after that.

  • Byron Cooper

    The courts are filled with frivolous lawsuits. The result is a huge backlog in the courts, increased cost to business that is passed on to consumers. Several years ago, a DC judge filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit over a missing pair of pants. The judge lost, but the cost of litigation drove the dry cleaner out of business, The pants were worth about $100, according to Nordstrom’s. The case created so much outrage that the judge lost his job. Regardless of Comcast’s customer service, this case has about the same amount of merit.

  • mbods2002

    I voted “yes” because the poor women seems like a “newbie” and needs direction going forward. Her first step is to be a regular reader of Elliot’s posts.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Was the bill correct? It does not make a difference of whether the bill went up or not, was Comcast correct? If they erred, it is a simple fix. If is as you inferred that Michelle failed to read the small print, she should write them the check today. Direct TV has the same increasing pricing as the contract ages. If you don’t ask, you pay!

  • pauletteb

    I hear that Comcast’s now basically calling itself Infinity has improved its reputation with consumers. Different name, same lousy company. I guess you really can’t fix stupid.

  • joycexyz

    The only way to get a reasonable resolution from Comcast is to visit the nearest office in person. From experience, I can tell you the reps on the phone appear to be either psychotic or professional liars. But I have succeeded in having bills lowered by speaking (nicely) with a live rep at the local office.

  • judyserienagy

    While I agree that you should not require a legal education to understand the policies of your service providers, it is imperative that you are able to read and comprehend the information you are signing. If you can’t, request some help from the company or a friend.

  • judyserienagy

    Tell us what you think about ComCast, Chris! Very well said.

  • judyserienagy

    No, you’re a thoughtful human being with morals, values and ethics, Rebecca.

  • Chris Johnson

    I could post plenty more on them, but that would just bore most people. Thanks for the complement.

  • BMG4ME

    Comcast and Verizon both raise rates far beyond what they should, because they can. We need to Google Fiber in more places to give some competition.

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