SAN FRANCISCO–The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a $33.4 million settlement agreement that resolves all issues regarding the unauthorized disclosure and publication of non-published directory listing information (i.e., name, telephone number, and address) of approximately 75,000 customers by Comcast Phone of California, LLC and its related entities.
As a result of Comcast’s unauthorized disclosure and publication, the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of these unlisted and non-published customers became available on Comcast’s online directory, in one or more rural telephone books, and via nationwide directory assistance.
After a year-long investigation and three days of evidentiary hearings, the CPUC’s Safety and Enforcement Division entered into a settlement with Comcast, the California Attorney General, and intervenors The Utility Reform Network and The Greenlining Institute.
Consistent with the settlement agreement, Comcast will pay a $25 million penalty to the California General Fund and the Attorney General’s Office, and will provide restitution to affected customers of approximately $8.4 million as follows:
1. $100 credits (or checks to former customers) for each of the 74,774 affected customers ($7,477,400);
2. $432,000 for home security and/or safety-related services for approximately 216 customers with specific and acute safety concerns related to the unauthorized disclosure; and,
3. $517,714 in non-published fees collected from former customers whom Comcast had not previously been able to reach (monies collected from current customers have already been returned).
“This penalty demonstrates California’s commitment to consumer protection. Our decision sends a message not only to Comcast, but also to companies throughout the State that protecting customer privacy is a top priority,” Said Commissioner Carla Peterman, Commissioner assigned to the proceeding.
“Our investigation revealed that many Comcast customers complained to Comcast that their names, addresses, and phone numbers were published, though they had paid for that information to be kept private,” Commissioner Catherine Sandoval said. “It is imperative that customer complaints be quickly addressed and that systems are established to identify and correct the root cause of the problem and protect consumer privacy. This settlement requires enhanced protection of consumer data, and increased transparency about how that data is used.”
The settlement agreement obliges Comcast to reform its practices relating to non-published consumer information, such as auditing vendors with access to Comcast’s directory listing information, strengthening protections for non-published listings, and providing its telephone customers with a simplified disclosure of how Comcast uses their personal identifying information and the steps customers can take to safeguard that information. Comcast will report annually to the CPUC on its compliance with these terms for the next three years. Finally, Comcast will contact each of the affected customers to explain the terms of this settlement.