Montgomery County officials are warning Comcast cable subscribers who want to preserve their consumer rights to pay close attention to their July bills and take the appropriate steps to “opt out” of the Arbitration Notice that is included in the bills.
The Comcast Arbitration Notice – which was sent out without County approval – attempts to change the terms of the subscriber agreement and limit subscriber rights. The subscriber’s best protection is to “opt out” of the policy within 30 days from the date of receipt of the bill.
“We are concerned about this Arbitration Notice because it uses a negative option technique to deny consumers the opportunity to affirmatively accept the change in their service agreement with Comcast,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett. “Vendors should not change the terms of service without first receiving the consent of the consumer, and the fact that Comcast has not done this is disturbing.”
“The County Council has always been a strong advocate for consumers and there should be no exceptions with the cable industry. It is important that customers know and exercise their rights,” said Marilyn Praisner, President of the Montgomery County Council.
“Comcast's unilateral action to change the subscriber agreement, with an artificial 30-day deadline, is simply anti-consumer,” said County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg, Chair of the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee. “The Management and Fiscal Policy Committee continues to scrutinize Comcast's performance, but in this case, we already know what urgent action needs to be taken. To preserve your legal rights, go online to www.comcast.com/arbitrationoptout and opt out now.”
“On the surface, arbitration sounds like a good thing, but Comcast’s proposed change is one-sided. We are concerned that subscribers will unknowingly give up some of their consumer rights by failing to opt out in time,” said Jane Lawton, Montgomery County’s Cable Administrator. “Comcast customers need to know that they do not have to accept this unilateral change in terms of their service.”
According to Comcast, customers who do not opt out of the Arbitration Notice within 30 days of receiving the notice will relinquish their right to pursue any legal remedies against Comcast in court, including claims for negligence, fraud or intentional wrongdoing. Nor can they join together as a class to seek common remedies. Comcast also attempts to limit the time in which subscribers can file a claim for injuries to one year and an even shorter time for billing disputes.
However, the changed policy preserves Comcast’s rights to pursue those suits it is most likely to have against individual subscribers – such as copyright violations, unauthorized use or receipt of service, and small claims. These are excluded from the arbitration notice.
Comcast customers can “opt out” of the Arbitration Notice either online or by mail by taking the following actions:
On line: Go to www.comcast.com/arbitrationoptout and fill out the form. You will need a copy of your Comcast bill so that you can enter your entire 14-digit customer account number as it appears on the bill. If you have any difficulties, call 1-800-COMCAST (1-800-266-2278) and report the problem. You should keep a copy of the form.
By Mail: Write a note to Comcast which includes your name, address, Comcast account number, and a statement that you do not wish to resolve disputes with Comcast through arbitration, and then mail to: Comcast, 1500 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, ATTN: Legal Department/Arbitration. You should also keep a copy of the letter you send to Comcast.
Comcast subscribers who have any problems or concerns should contact the County Office of Cable and Communications Services at 240-773-2288.
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