Comcast cable subscribers in the Philadelphia region will see either a $15 credit on their cable bill or receive a couple months of a free premium channel as part of the corporation's settlement of a decade-long litigation battle over accusation that it held a regional monopoly.
According to documents submitted to federal Judge John Padova earlier this week, Comcast has agreed to break down the settlement into $16.7 million in cash and $33.3 in services. The settlement says current subscribers of non-basic video programming services from Comcast in any of five designated counties will be entitled to elect either a one-time credit of $15 off their bill, or from the following Comcast services.
- (a) six free pay-per-view movies (an estimated $35.94 value);or
- (b) for customers who subscribe to Xfinity high-speed Internet service, four months' free upgrade in Internet service from Performance Level to Blast! service (an estimated $40 value), or one free month upgrade from Blast! service to Extreme 105 service (an estimated $38 value); or
- (c) two free months of The Movie Channel (an estimated $43.90 value)
The agreement puts to rest a class action suit originally filed in 2003, alleging that the cable giant "swapped" customers with other providers and “clustering” cable systems in geographic areas. The suit claimed that such conduct allowed Comcast to acquire or maintain monopoly power, raise prices, engage in anticompetitive conduct and limit choice for cable consumers to effectively the only game in town – the cable services of the “cluster” monopoly cable company.
By accepting the deal, Comcast will not have to admit to any wrongdoing in its business practices, according to the paperwork. The settlement will be disbursed among 800,000 current and former subscribers. The original suit had included 2 million plaintiffs in the class certification approved by Padova, but the Supreme Court rejected the class, saying it failed to prove that Comcast's alleged monopoly was the predominant issue for all members.
The plaintiffs were represented by attorneys from Heins Mills & Olson in Minneapolis, Minn., and Susman Godfrey in Houston, Texas. The attorneys fees are estimated to reach $15 million.