Comcast Sorry It Got A Customer Fired Over A Billing Dispute

AP Photo/George Widman
If love means never having to say you're sorry, you might think there was no love lost between cable company Comcast and Conal O'Rourke. Because after a particularly bad breakup, which ultimately cost O'Rourke his job, Comcast felt like it had to say sorry for its "completely unacceptable" service, according to a blog post by the company's senior vice president of customer experience, Charlie Herrin.

Could that have anything to do with the demand O'Rourke's lawyer has sent for a "full retraction and apology", the return of his job, and $100,312.50, or else to expect a lawsuit, as Ars Technica reported?

Comcast has the second worst customer satisfaction rating in the U.S. subscription television industry, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. And O'Rourke's experience, as summarized by Ars Technica, gives a major example of why.

O'Rourke, an expert in financial analysis, accounting, and auditing who worked for PriceWaterhouseCoopers, had relocated to California and, in February 2013, he moved to San Jose. Comcast was his only choice of television and Internet service. By April, his problems started.

His first bill misspelled his name and charged him for three additional high-definition TV outlets in his home at $26.25 a month as well as cable boxes that he had never yet activated. O'Rourke claimed he was told that until he activated them, he wouldn't be charged. And some premium channel services he was supposed to get for nine months disappeared after three.

Things only got worse. In October, he said his Internet service became unusably slow and after repeated promises, Comcast had done nothing. During parts of November and December, he was traveling overseas. On return he found boxes of equipment he never ordered and a monthly bill charging him $1,820 for the gear.

He brought the hardware back to the company's office, got the charges reversed, but to make a long story shorter, his repeated attempts to get multiple errors on his bill corrected finally resulted in Comcast sending his account to collections. When he kept pushing up the organizational ladder and finally threatened to bring a complaint to the regulatory agency that governs cable service, things got ugly.

Someone at Comcast apparently determined that he was a PwC employee and, according to O'Rourke's lawyer, falsely claimed that he had tried to use his position at the company to force a resolution. Comcast is a large customer of PwC. By February 18, PwC fired O'Rourke.

In March, he dumped Comcast and got service with AT&T, which took only a week.

As for that apology, here is part of it:

What happened with Mr. O'Rourke's service is completely unacceptable. Despite our attempts to address Mr. O'Rourke's issues, we simply dropped the ball and did not make things right. Mr. O'Rourke deserves another apology from us and we're making this one publicly. We also want to clarify that nobody at Comcast asked for him to be fired.

Herrin, who is apparently only a "few weeks into a new role at Comcast," is determined to get to the bottom of what happened and said that "we're holding ourselves accountable."

According to the Ars Technica report, Comcast admitted that someone from the company contacted PwC and said "a person claiming to be a PWC employee had called our chief accounting executive's office with complaints about his cable service and bills, and yelled at our employees who tried to assist him." The question is whether he invoked the employer during the complaints or had mentioned the affiliation on an application form or somewhere else that a Comcast employee was able to find.

It's just more bad PR for Comcast's customer service, which took a public hit earlier this year when tech journalist Ryan Block recorded his unpleasant phone experience with the company, as Deadline Hollywood reported. Not good when Comcast is still trying to get the government to sign off on its acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Half-hearted apology aside, it doesn't sound as though even a bouquet of flowers and box of chocolates probably would enough to rectify the situation.
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