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Comcast OKs $50M Settlement in Philly Cable-TV Class Action

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on October 30, 2014 1:50 PM

Cable giant Comcast has agreed to a $50 million settlement in a class action that accused the company of overcharging its cable TV subscribers.

This case has been bouncing around in court for over 10 years now with plaintiffs alleging that Comcast had monopolized the cable-TV market in Philadelphia and unfairly raised prices. Reuters reports that the suit once covered more than 2 million subscribers, but the settlement reached on Tuesday covers just over 800,000.

What are the details of this Comcast settlement, and when will current and former subscribers see a dime of it?

Preliminary Settlement Still Needs Approval

Plaintiffs in this massive Comcast class action submitted a motion for preliminary approval of the class action settlement to Pennsylvania federal court on Tuesday, which is a necessary step before this initial agreement can go forward. The agreement, which will be evaluated by a federal judge, provides:

  • $16,670,000 to be set aside as settlement cash funds;
  • $33,330,000 worth of services to be provided to current subscribers as "settlement credits";
  • The creation of a settlement website at www.cablesettlement.com (a domain which apparently has yet to be purchased); and
  • No part of the settlement (cash or services) may return to Comcast (i.e., no reverter).

Approximately two-thirds the $50 million settlement is set to be provided as services. To that end, Comcast has agreed to the following options for current subscribers:

  • A one-time $15 credit on their cable bill;
  • Six free pay-per-view movies;
  • A free temporary upgrade in Internet speed; and
  • Two free months of "The Movie Channel" (any claimant who doesn't pick an option will get this by default).

U.S. District Court Judge John R. Padova can always reject this preliminary settlement, and courts can be distrustful of great-sounding deals coming out of giant corporations.

Settlement Despite U.S. Supreme Court Case

While Reuters reports that the proposed settlement will still cover past and present subscribers in Philadelphia and four nearby counties, the case was more than twice the size two years ago.

In March 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the class of 2 million former and present Comcast subscribers in this overcharging suit had been improperly lumped together. While many of the Comcast customers who signed on to the lawsuit had similar gripes about the company's practices, the High Court didn't feel they had enough in common to be considered a class.

Although it may have taken more than a decade, some 800,000 Pennsylvania cable TV subscribers may soon receive compensation if the settlement goes through.

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