Update – November 14, 2019 – Lawsuit Sent to Arbitration
In a refrain familiar to many who have challenged mobile carriers, cable companies, and myriad corporations through proposed class action litigation, the lawsuit detailed on this page has been sent to arbitration.
United States District Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV ruled in a 10-page order that the plaintiff and Comcast are bound by the arbitration clauseincluded in the company’s 2017 subscriber agreement. Judge Saylor wrote that contrary to the plaintiff’s claim that the clause was unenforceable because the company could modify it at any time, the company does not, in fact, have such free reign.
“The 2017 Subscriber Agreement provides that ‘[a]rbitrations shall be administered by the AAA pursuant to its Consumer Arbitration Rule . . . as modified by the version of this Arbitration Provision that is in effect when you notify [Comcast] about your dispute,’” the order reads. “That language does not give Comcast unfettered ability to modify the Arbitration Provision as applied to a pending matter; a consumer can lock in the then-current arbitration terms simply by giving notice of a dispute.”
Ultimately, Judge Saylor found that the mere possibility that Comcast would alter its arbitration clause upon becoming aware of a possible claim was “not fatal to the agreement” given that subscribers, after receiving notice of amended arbitration provisions, are provided a 30-day window in which to reject the changes.
The plaintiff, the order states, did not exercise his right to opt out of Comcast’s arbitration clause at any time.
A proposed class action out of Massachusetts alleges Comcast Cable Communications, LLC has systematically violated subscribers’ privacy rights by gathering, maintaining, and using private video viewing data without consent.
The 20-page case cites alleged violations of the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, known otherwise as the Cable Privacy Act, a law meant to safeguard the privacy and security of cable subscribers’ personal details “against the technical capabilities of two-way cable networking equipment.” The Cable Privacy Act, above all else, prohibits cable providers such as Comcast from having their way with subscribers’ data or viewing habits with the exception of a limited few circumstances.
Under the Cable Privacy Act, cable providers are required to obtain written or electronic consent from a subscriber before collecting and using the individual’s information. Comcast, the complaint charges, obtains personally identifiable subscriber information, including details on what people watch and into which demographic they fit, without consent, and then uses this information to bolster its advertising power.
The case goes on to say that also embedded in the Cable Privacy Act is the requirement that cable providers provide subscribers with access to all personally identifiable information (PII) collected and maintained by the company. According to the lawsuit, customers who ask for access to their personal subscriber data instead receive from Comcast only the subscriber’s name, partial social security number, address and home phone number, and no video activity or demographic data.
“In failing and refusing to produce the information Comcast violates subscribers’ statutory rights and actively conceals its illegal practices,” the lawsuit alleges.
Comcast’s data collection practices have allowed it to become a “leader” in targeted advertising, for which the lawsuit states the company charges advertisers a premium price due to the efficacy of its ad service. As the suit tells it, Comcast’s ad targeting capabilities are exceedingly sophisticated:
“In addition to subscribers’ viewing histories, the PII that Comcast collects and uses to target ads includes customers’ incomes, ethnicities, education level, the cars they drive, the products they buy, and where they live—data Comcast acquires from other sources, like Experian, and matches with existing PII in the subscriber profiles Comcast creates, maintains, and updates.”
The lawsuit looks to cover all Massachusetts residents who have or had a residential Comcast cable TV subscription.