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DC Man Sues Comcast Over '$26K Error'

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#1 Hum

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 23:43

In June 2010, Marc Himmelstein called Comcast of the District LLC to cancel his cable and high-speed Internet services in his Northwest Washington, D.C., home, Courthouse News reported.

Comcast told Himmelstein he was due a refund of $123.19. The company's equipment was removed from Himmelstein's home, but a modem was accidentally left behind, and Himmelstein was charged $220, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 6, 2012.

Himmelstein, the CEO of National Environmental Strategies, a D.C. lobbying firm, had no idea that he still had the modem, or that he owed Comcast a dime. He learned about his "debt" in August 2010 when he called Comcast to ask about the $123.19 refund.

He was told that as soon as he returned the missing modem, the charge would be removed. That is exactly what Himmelstein did, and he contacted Comcast "on at least three occasions," according to the court filing, to make sure it had received the modem. While Himmelstein didn't receive a written notice, he was informed Comcast had fixed the error, and that his refund was en-route, the filing states.

Except it wasn't. Not only did Himmelstein never receive the $123.19 refund, he had no idea that the $220 charge had been forwarded to Credit Protection Association, and that in December 2010, CPA had reported the late charge to three national credit-reporting agencies.

Himmelstein is not the only unhappy Comcast customer who has experienced difficulties with the cable service. There is an " I Hate Comcast" Facebook page, along with an anti-Comcast blog set up in 2009, targeting Comcast.

Himmelstein said he learned about the credit reporting filing in the spring of 2011, when he tried to refinance his mortgage with Citibank, and his credit report showed that his account was in arrears thanks to the Comcast charge. According to the claim, "because of this outstanding debt, Citibank required Himmelstein to pay an additional $26,000 (1 percent of the value of the mortgage) for the same loan)." He paid it.

Himmelstein and his lawyer, Matt Finkelstein, of Bethesda, Md., filed a breach of contract claim and negligence against Comcast in D.C. federal court. They have also sued the Credit Protection Association for negligence and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Himmelstein is seeking to recoup the $26,000 that Citibank required him to pay to refinance his mortgage, attorney fees and the $123.19 credit he was owed when he first closed his account, which he has still not received.

On Oct. 22, Comcast filed a motion to dismiss all charges. Last week, District Judge James Boasberg partially dismissed claims for constructive fraud and a "bad faith" breach of contract.

"The accounting mistakes made by Comcast in handling Himmelstein's account - while unquestionably frustrating - do not raise an inference of bad faith sufficient to state a claim for breach of covenant," Boasberg wrote.

But Boasberg refused to dismiss the negligence claim against Comcast because, he wrote, unresolved questions remain about the company's duty to Himmelstein.

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#2 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 15 December 2012 - 23:55

There are so many issues here.

1) A bank shouldn't charge you an extra $26,000 simply because you have a $220 debt against your name.
2) Regulators should prevent banks from allowing such predatory business practices.
3) Consumers shouldn't sign contracts with such ridiculous clauses in them.
4) Comcast should be held liable for the full amount because its incompetence directly led to the charges.

Consumers, businesses and the government are at fault for this mess. The winner in all of this? The bank. There's a good reason big business spends so much money lobbying the government to water-down regulations and avoid regulator scrutiny. Afterall, wouldn't you love to get $26,000 for doing absolutely nothing?

#3 Growled

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 02:31

I doubt Comcast will ever win any customer support awards acting like this.

#4 +LogicalApex

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:01

There are so many issues here.

1) A bank shouldn't charge you an extra $26,000 simply because you have a $220 debt against your name.
2) Regulators should prevent banks from allowing such predatory business practices.
3) Consumers shouldn't sign contracts with such ridiculous clauses in them.
4) Comcast should be held liable for the full amount because its incompetence directly led to the charges.

Consumers, businesses and the government are at fault for this mess. The winner in all of this? The bank. There's a good reason big business spends so much money lobbying the government to water-down regulations and avoid regulator scrutiny. Afterall, wouldn't you love to get $26,000 for doing absolutely nothing?


Banks don't like to see late payments and collections on your credit report. If they are there when you ask the bank for a loan you can bet they'll charge you a higher interest rate and other penalties. This is the nature of the lending arm of banking and can't be prevented really.

#5 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:30

Banks don't like to see late payments and collections on your credit report. If they are there when you ask the bank for a loan you can bet they'll charge you a higher interest rate and other penalties. This is the nature of the lending arm of banking and can't be prevented really.


The problem is that it's a ludicrous system. Clearly this guy wasn't a risk to the bank yet they fleeced him for $26,000. Him not returning a router doesn't make him more of a credit risk, especially in cases like this where he thought he was being responsible. Everything is based on abstract calculations, whereby the smallest variable can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars. It's not compassionate, it's clearly not fair and it shouldn't be tolerated.

People shouldn't complacently accept that banks are going to screw them over and that there's nothing they can do about it. He should take the bank to court for unfair business practices. Consumers should get together and pressure regulators to take action. Voters should demand the politicians take consumer protection seriously.

#6 sagum

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 03:49

4) Comcast should be held liable for the full amount because its incompetence directly led to the charges.

Consumers, businesses and the government are at fault for this mess. The winner in all of this? The bank. There's a good reason big business spends so much money lobbying the government to water-down regulations and avoid regulator scrutiny. Afterall, wouldn't you love to get $26,000 for doing absolutely nothing?


Comcast's actions didn't lead directly to any charges incurred by Himmelstein. He knew full well he'd be getting additional charges when he signed the contract, regardless of if he knew or thought that the bank was adding interest to his loan that agreement of the loan was between him and the bank. You can't infer a 3rd party on a document you willingly sign and agree to.
Unfortunately, due to the way the debt and leaning system works any person (company or human) can register a debt making it impossible for someone to gain reasonable loans or sell their house/car etc. There is no need to prove you are owed the debt first and if you really wanted to, you could even send in a bailiff (not state assigned) to recover your 'debt owed'. If the person agrees to let them in the house or take the possessions they've agreed on the debt. but of course that's a totally different matter, but I'm assuming this is the action Himmelstein would have faced at a later date.

#7 theyarecomingforyou

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 04:02

Comcast's actions didn't lead directly to any charges incurred by Himmelstein.


Nonsense. He sent back the modem and contacted them three times to ensure they had received, at which point he was informed that the matter had been dealt with. What more was he expected to do? Regardless, is it really too much to demand that companies clear these matters directly with customers rather than immediately referring things on to credit agencies?

The entire financial system is a joke and it's far too shady. Your credit rating should be freely available to access and banks should be required to warn you of any changes that could impact any agreements you have with them. Consumers are being screwed over while banks continue to post record profits.

#8 itsthenewDC

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 04:08

The guy can pay $26,000 but threw a fuss over the ~$100 refund..? :p I know he was entitled to it, but still... Such a small amount to cause this much trouble.

#9 ir0nw0lf

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 04:12

The guy can pay $26,000 but threw a fuss over the ~$100 refund..? :p I know he was entitled to it, but still... Such a small amount to cause this much trouble.

Sometimes it's not about the green, it's about principles. That and his credit. :)

#10 Simon-

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Posted 16 December 2012 - 04:33

Him not returning a router doesn't make him more of a credit risk, especially in cases like this where he thought he was being responsible.

The bank is not a party to the alleged debt so they are not at liberty to investigate the claims. All they see is that the man didn't pay back a debt, without knowing that it is for a router or car or whatever.

Everything is based on abstract calculations, whereby the smallest variable can end up costing tens of thousands of dollars.

From the banks perspective, the man didn't pay back a $200 debt, so that reduces the chances that he will pay back a $2.7 million debt. Pretty simple calculation to me.