Comcast pays $26 million to settle waste lawsuit

Comcast Communications has agreed to pay $26 million to resolve allegations by the state and Alameda County that it unlawfully disposed of hazardous electronic equipment and failed to shred records that contained customers’ names, addresses and phone numbers, prosecutors said.

The settlement resolves a suit filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley that was based on a joint investigation that they said found that the cable company’s dispatch and warehouse facilities throughout California had been sending used remote controls, modems, amplifiers and other electronic gear to landfills that weren’t supposed to receive them.

Harris and O’Malley said the refuse also included sensitive customer information that should have been shredded first.

The prosecutors said they’ve been investigating Comcast since a whistleblower brought the Philadelphia-based company’s allegedly unlawful disposal of hazardous electronic items to their attention in 2010. They alleged that Comcast’s violations began in 2005.

Harris said in a statement:

“Comcast’s careless and unlawful hazardous waste disposal practices jeopardized the health and environmental well-being of California communities and exposed their customers to the threat of identity theft.”

Harris added:

“This agreement holds Comcast accountable for breaking the law and puts strict measures in place to prevent them from putting Californians and our environment at risk in the future.”

O’Malley said in a statement that the settlement:

“… represents a victory in California’s ongoing efforts to ensure that hazardous waste is disposed of in a safe, legal and environmentally sustainable manner.”

O’Malley added:

“Not only will my office pursue all necessary legal action against entities that pollute our environment, but we will also use all legal means to ensure California’s consumers’ private information is protected.”

Comcast spokesman Bryan Byrd said in a statement:

“We’re pleased to bring this matter from 2012 to a close and remain committed to the highest standards of environmental compliance. …¬†We have devoted considerable time and resources toward our environmental compliance and have taken a number of steps to improve our practices.”

Byrd added:

“We will continue to invest in the education and training of our employees.”

The settlement, which awaits approval by an Alameda County Superior Court judge, calls for Comcast to pay $19.85 million in civil penalties and costs, $3 million to fund environmental and consumer protection and enforcement, $2.4 million for public service announcements on proper waste disposal over four years and at least $700,000 to improve the company’s practices.

The settlement also permanently enjoins Comcast from engaging in similar future violations of the law.