Why is Comcast muzzling its customer after a dispute?

When Jeff McCabe found two charges by Comcast on his credit card one month, he disputed one of them. But over the next three months, he found himself fighting Comcast over the duplicate charge. He asked our advocates to help him straighten out his account.

McCabe tells us that he reached “a fair solution” with Comcast — but we don’t know what it is. Comcast required him to sign a nondisclosure agreement.

We assume Comcast finally agreed with McCabe that it had charged him twice and either refunded the extra payment to him or applied it to a subsequent month. But why does Comcast need him to keep silent over a solution to a billing snafu?

McCabe’s story began in January, when he spotted two charges on his Chase credit card statement for $111 by Comcast. One was dated Jan. 6; the second was dated Jan. 7 (each charge was posted the previous day). McCabe disputed the charge on Jan. 6 with Chase. But Comcast never responded to the chargeback. Instead, it rebilled him for the second charge:

When Chase originally filed my disputed charge on Jan. 30 for the Jan. 6 payment I made, Comcast did not dispute the chargeback.

Comcast added $111 that I owed them for January, acting as if I never paid for that month. There was still the second payment (Jan. 7) sent by Chase to the bank for Comcast that should have covered what I owed for January.

But Comcast will not acknowledge receipt of that payment despite my submission of the statement and a phone call from Chase that explained the situation.

Comcast never recharged my credit card. It added the charge that was disputed to my Comcast account as additional money that I owe.

In April, Chase reversed the chargeback. But Comcast billed McCabe another monthly charge of $111 rather than applying the duplicate payment to his account.

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McCabe contacted Comcast regarding the extra charge. He was given a help ticket number and told that his ticket had been assigned to a Comcast representative named Pepper. But he never received a call from Pepper or anyone else at Comcast regarding the ticket.

A week later, McCabe had an online chat with a Comcast employee named Rhea, who didn’t seem to understand the nature of McCabe’s problem and was not helpful in solving it:

Rhea: After checking, the payment of $110.80 on 01/05/17 was returned on 02/04/17 and the other payment of $110.80 [on] 01/06/17 was charged back on 04/15/17. Based on the investigation [by] our Higher Team, it was found out that there was [sic] no funds taken from your bank. They suggested to contact your bank or card company as they have the transaction records as well. It was confirmed also that…no funds was [sic] taken.

McCabe: The funds from 01/05 were returned last Monday. That was what I was trying to explain. I contacted my bank they told me that funds were released. The payback on 04/15 was for a payment on 01/06 that appeared on my statement from Comcast. Comcast got the money back from 01/06. The dispute was ended. Payment research talked with my bank when Chase called on 04/10. This was explained. Why did higher up not call me? I was told that Pepper would call me [when] the investigation was complete?…

McCabe: Is there no chance that payment research will contact [me?] I was told by the Solutions Team on Monday of this week to expect a call from Pepper who was assigned my ticket number.

Rhea: I apologize; however, we don’t have the access to contact them. Part of the resolution is to contact the credit card company concerning the resent [sic] payment chargeback.

McCabe: I already did that. They talked to me and explained the situation. Comcast will not talk with me. Why is that? I have proof from Chase that the payment from January 6 was returned back to Comcast. What else can Chase do for me if Comcast will not apply the funds to my account?

Rhea asked McCabe to hold on and disappeared for 46 minutes. When she returned, she merely reiterated that no funds had been taken from McCabe’s’ bank and that he should contact the bank, his local Comcast office, or Comcast customer service, all of which McCabe had already tried. She provided no answer to McCabe’s question about why Pepper had never contacted him.

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Since Comcast’s employees were unwilling to work with McCabe to resolve his issue, he contacted our advocates. (Executive contact information for Comcast appears on our website.)

Comcast’s subscriber agreement provides that:

How We Will Bill You. Unless you are subject to a minimum term arrangement, Service(s) are provided to you on a month-to-month basis….You will generally be billed monthly, in advance, for recurring service charges, equipment charges, and fees….

Payment by Credit Card or Check. If you use a credit card to pay for the Service(s), use of the card is governed by the card issuer agreement, and you must refer to that agreement for your rights and liabilities as a cardholder. If Comcast does not receive payment from your credit card issuer or its agents, you agree to pay all amounts due upon demand….

Your Responsibilities Concerning Billing Questions. Subject to applicable law, if you intend to dispute a charge or request a billing credit, you must contact Comcast within 120 days of the date on the bill. You waive any disputes or credits that you do not report within 120 days.

Unfortunately for McCabe, although he disputed the duplicate charge within the 120-day window, the subscriber agreement allows Comcast to continue billing him on a monthly basis and to require him to pay the $111 balance due on demand, even though Comcast had not applied the funds from the reversed chargeback to McCabe’s account.

But Comcast, which is notorious for its poor customer service, failed in nearly every aspect of McCabe’s case by billing him twice in one month, not applying the reversed chargeback to his account, not responding to his help ticket, refusing to allow him to speak to investigators or higher-ranking executives, and its representative disappearing for 46 minutes during a chat.

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Our advocates reached out to Comcast on McCabe’s behalf, and McCabe claims to be “content” with whatever Comcast offered as a resolution. But the nondisclosure agreement he was required to sign prevents good publicity as well as bad. If McCabe is OK with whatever Comcast offered after all its customer service failings, he should not have been required to keep silent about it. And if he weren’t, he should be allowed to say so.

As the greatest asset a company can have is satisfied customers who publicize its products and services with happy testimonials, we think Comcast’s nondisclosure requirement will ultimately harm the company if its customers can’t do this following resolution of their situations, satisfactory or otherwise.

We can only hope Comcast comes to realize this — and will not require any of its customers to sign nondisclosure agreements in the future.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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