from the dysfunction-junction dept
And, time and time again, Comcast will engage in some fairly obvious but incredible screw up that only gets fixed once the media gets involved. Case in point: Ars Technica tells the tale this week of a condo association in Sarasota, Florida that was just at the tail end of a 10 year bulk service contract with Comcast to provide cable service to the community. Once the contract ended, the association went ahead and cancelled service. But, Comcast being Comcast, the company kept billing the association $680 a month for several months, resulting in an "outstanding balance" of more than $2000.
As always, actually getting a refund from Comcast wound up being a Sisyphean feat.
When contacted, Comcast first claimed the association sent the cancellation center to the "wrong location." That's something the association denies, noting they sent the request to a Comcast office in Boca Raton that handles paperwork related to bulk contracts in the region (Comcast just mishandled the request). Subsequent efforts over the next few months included filing complaints with the FCC, filing complaints with the Florida government, and writing to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. The association also tried to obtain mediation through the Citizen Dispute Settlement Program in Florida; a request Comcast never responded to.
Ultimately, like we've seen countless times before, Comcast only jumped to action once the media got involved:
Riggs Landing canceled the automatic bank payments, refused to pay for further months, and accused Comcast of illegally charging them twice for the same service, which Comcast denied. Riggs Landing and Comcast were at a stalemate for a few months, until Wiener contacted Ars in early September.It's just the same pattern over and over again. Comcast screws up, and instead of just admitting error and nipping the problem in the bud, the company doubles down -- putting the already incredibly annoyed customer through a gauntlet of dysfunction, compounding the public disdain for the company. Only once the threat of broad public exposure of its incompetence surfaces can Comcast be bothered to actually take a closer look at what happened.
“It just amazes me that for $2,000 plus, which has to be petty cash for them, that they would put up such resistance and alienate customers,” Wiener told Ars. Comcast is the United States' largest cable company and broadband provider.
Finally, after Ars contacted Comcast, the company agreed in mid-September to honor the April 1 cancellation date and provide a refund. Riggs Landing received the refund check of $2,034.31 on October 21.
The problem is there's no end in sight for this kind of market idiocy. Cable giants are consolidating at an incredible rate. And the nation's DSL providers are effectively refusing to upgrade huge swaths of their DSL networks to instead focus on getting into the content and media business. Add in an incoming regulatory regime that doesn't think broadband monopolies are real, and you have a recipe for a stronger cable monopoly, less competition, and less incentive than ever to fix this ongoing parade of dysfunction.