Comcast to pay $33.4 million for releasing unlisted phone numbers

The California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco Thursday approved a settlement requiring Comcast Phone of California LLC to pay $33.4 million for releasing the unlisted phone numbers of nearly 75,000 customers over a two-year period.

The unauthorized disclosure of 74,774 California customers’ numbers occurred between July 2010 and December 2012, according to the commission. The customers had paid between $1.25 and $1.50 per month to keep their numbers private.

The phone numbers were made public in Comcast’s online directory, through directory assistance, and in telephone directories published by third parties.

The settlement includes $12.5 million to be paid to the state’s general fund; a civil penalty of $12.5 million to the state Attorney General’s Office; and $8.4 million to affected customers.

Each costumer or former customer will receive a $100 credit or check, for a total of $7,477,400.

Another $432,000 will fund home security and safety-related services for approximately 216 customers who had specific and acute safety concerns related to the unauthorized disclosure. This group includes law enforcement officers, trial witnesses, crime victims and domestic violence victims who had sought to keep their numbers confidential for safety reasons.

An additional $517,714 will be used to reimburse the fees paid by former customers whom Comcast has not yet reached. The company has already reimbursed its current customers for the fees paid for unlisted numbers, the commission said.

Commissioner Catherine Sandoval said in a statement, “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.

“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,” Sandoval said.

Comcast issued a statement saying, “We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Attorney General’s office that brings this matter to closure.

“While this matter was operationally resolved nearly three years ago, it has always been our goal to find a solution that works for all parties and for the customers who were impacted by this error. We value and work hard to protect our customers’ privacy, and we apologize to anyone who was impacted by this,” the company said.