D.C. Man Sues Comcast Over Error That He Claims Cost Him $26,000


By Abby Ellin

In June 2010, Marc Himmelstein called Comcast (CMCSA) of the District LLC to cancel his cable and high-speed Internet services in his Northwest Washington, D.C., home, Courthouse News reported.

Comcast told Himmelstein he was due a refund of $123.19. The company's equipment was removed from Himmelstein's home, but a modem was accidentally left behind, and Himmelstein was charged $220, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 6, 2012.

Himmelstein, the CEO of National Environmental Strategies, a D.C. lobbying firm, had no idea that he still had the modem, or that he owed Comcast a dime. He learned about his "debt" in August 2010 when he called Comcast to ask about the $123.19 refund.

He was told that as soon as he returned the missing modem, the charge would be removed. That is exactly what Himmelstein did, and he contacted Comcast "on at least three occasions," according to the court filing, to make sure it had received the modem. While Himmelstein didn't receive a written notice, he was informed Comcast had fixed the error, and that his refund was en-route, the filing states.

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Except it wasn't. Not only did Himmelstein never receive the $123.19 refund, he had no idea that the $220 charge had been forwarded to Credit Protection Association, and that in December 2010, CPA had reported the late charge to three national credit-reporting agencies.
Himmelstein is not the only unhappy Comcast customer who has experienced difficulties with the cable service. There is an "I Hate Comcast" Facebook page, along with an anti-Comcast blog set up in 2009, targeting Comcast.

Himmelstein said he learned about the credit reporting filing in the spring of 2011, when he tried to refinance his mortgage with Citibank (C), and his credit report showed that his account was in arrears thanks to the Comcast charge. According to the claim, "because of this outstanding debt, Citibank required Himmelstein to pay an additional $26,000 (1 percent of the value of the mortgage) for the same loan." He paid it.

Himmelstein and his lawyer, Matt Finkelstein, of Bethesda, Md., filed a breach of contract claim and negligence against Comcast in D.C. federal court. They have also sued the Credit Protection Association for negligence and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Himmelstein is seeking to recoup the $26,000 that Citibank required him to pay to refinance his mortgage, attorney fees and the $123.19 credit he was owed when he first closed his account, which he has still not received.

On Oct. 22, Comcast filed a motion to dismiss all charges. Last week, District Judge James Boasberg partially dismissed claims for constructive fraud and a "bad faith" breach of contract.

"The accounting mistakes made by Comcast in handling Himmelstein's account – while unquestionably frustrating – do not raise an inference of bad faith sufficient to state a claim for breach of covenant," Boasberg wrote.

But Boasberg refused to dismiss the negligence claim against Comcast because, he wrote, unresolved questions remain about the company's duty to Himmelstein.

Both Comcast and Himmelstein declined to comment to ABC News. CPA did not return phone calls from ABC News.

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