Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced that the California Department of Justice, along with the California Public Utilities Commission, has reached a $33 million settlement with Comcast over allegations that Comcast posted online the names, phone numbers and addresses of tens of thousands of customers who had paid for unlisted voice over internet protocol (“VOIP”) phone service.
As part of the settlement, Comcast must pay $25 million in penalties and investigative costs to the California Department of Justice and the California Public Utilities Commission. Comcast will also pay approximately $8 million in additional restitution to customers whose numbers were improperly disclosed.
“Publishing personal information that should have been unlisted is unlawful and a troubling breach of privacy,” Attorney General Harris said. “This settlement provides meaningful relief to victims, brings greater transparency to Comcast’s privacy practices and sends a message that violations of consumers’ privacy will result in significant penalties.”
As part of the stipulated judgment filed Thursday in Alameda Superior Court, Comcast has agreed to a permanent injunction that requires the company to improve how it handles customer complaints and to strengthen the restrictions it places on its vendors’ use of personal information about customers. The injunction will require Comcast to provide a simple and easy-to-read disclosure form to all customers that explains the ways in which it uses unlisted phone numbers and other personal information.
Comcast is in the process of refunding all fees paid for unlisted service by the roughly 75,000 customers whose information was improperly disclosed over a two-year period, which total over $2 million. Under the settlement, Comcast will pay each of these customers $100 on top of the refund, totaling an additional $7.5 million. The settlement also provides for further monetary relief to individuals who have identified personal safety concerns related to the disclosure of their personal information, such as law enforcement personnel and victims of domestic violence.
Comcast’s existing customers will receive their restitution payment as a credit on an upcoming telephone bill. Former customers will have their restitution payments mailed to their last known mailing address in the next few months. For questions about restitution administration, please contact Comcast at 1-855-290-6262.
This settlement is part of a global agreement that also resolves related administrative actions filed before the California Public Utilities Commission. The Utility Reform Network (TURN) and the Greenlining Institute participated in those proceedings as well as the settlement negotiations and have approved the settlement terms.