Pictured: A Comcast vehicle doing nothing, which is the best you can ask for.
(via Dwight Burdette)

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Update 5:34 pm: Since the publication of this article, Comcast posted "A Public Apology To Conal O'Rourke" on their blog. Here is that statement: 

Wow. That was so nice of them to apologize to us, the public, because according to Mr. O'Rourke's lawyers, they still haven't said peep to him directly, nor have they released what was actually asked for: the recorded calls that would prove Mr. O'Rourke was telling the truth, because it doesn't matter if Comcast said "fire this guy"—they knew it would happen. But hey, at this rate it will only take 6 more months.

Published 3:05 pm: Hold on to your lunch, people, because we're going into the belly of the beast. 

We all agree that Comcast is evil incarnate, but even I was shocked to learn that they will punish your complaints by calling your job and getting you fired. That's what investigative stories from Ars Technica and the Consumerist say happened to Conal O'Rourke from San Jose, California. O'Rourke spent 11 months trying to refute mystery charges for phantom devices he had never used, including almost two grand in equipment charges that Comcast sent him by mistake, only to lose his job. Now he and his lawyer are fighting back, demanding "a full retraction and apology, his re-employment with his former employer, and $100,312.50." He should be asking for a lot more, but I guess he really thinks getting his job back is a possibility.

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Comcast: Even more crooked than PWC's logo.

Mr. O'Rourke, a former accountant at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) in San Jose, signed up for Comcast in early 2013 after falling for a promotional 9-month offer. Things immediately went terribly, by which we mean "normally." Comcast charged him for HD outlets he never had installed, for cable boxes he had not activated, and misspelled his name, causing problems with billing. He made his first call to Comcast customer service in May of 2013, coming away with an assurance that all these problems would be resolved.

Fast-forward a few months, and Comcast had stopped giving him his nine months of free premium channels after only three months, continued charging him for cable boxes he hadn't activated, and threw charges for an imaginary modem into the mix for good measure. More fruitless calls to customer service were made. Finally, in October of 2013, Mr. O'Rourke made his first attempt to cancel his Comcast service. 


The viral "customer retention hell" call.

Now, it's at this point that I should make a public service announcement and remind everyone to always record every call with Comcast or Time Warner, or else they'll hand you to a sociopath who will torture you into staying, just plain steal from you, or put you on hold and go home.


I should just start mailing people junk and charging them for not returning it.
(via Conal O'Rourke/Ars Technica)

Comcast promised Mr. O'Rourke three months of free DVR service and The Movie Channel as an apology. What he got instead was 12 pieces of Comcast hardware ("DVRs, modem, standard boxes and equipment that I was unfamiliar with," according to Conal) for no reason, except possibly the $1,820 in equipment charges that came with them.

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To be fair, that's a really clean floor for a Comcast office.
(via Conal O'Rourke/Ars Technica)

Mr. O'Rourke, remember, is an accountant. So, when he returned Comcast's bogus equipment to their offices, he had with him spreadsheets showing every financial interaction he had made with Comcast, complete with all their extra charges. Unsurprisingly, this had literally no effect on the people at Comcast. It's possible, however, that a sarcastic email he sent nominating a Comcast manager for a customer service award had an effect, though, since his account was promptly and wrongfully sent to a collections agency even though he still had time to pay it. Which brings us to February 2014.

Having now called customer service on six occasions, Conal called Comcast's office of the Controller, aka the accounting department. Mr. O'Rourke detailed his miserable year of being a customer, in which "he had not received one single bill in which he was not overcharged." He was promised a follow-up call to resolve his issues. What happened next, shown here in this letter from O'Rourke's lawyer, would be unbelievable if it's not also exactly what we've come to expect from Comcast:


Classic Evelyn. (via Conal O'Rourke/Ars Technica)

This insane interaction led Conal to call the Controller's office again and complain about the weird call he'd just received, in addition to the months of horrible service. He was promised another service call that no one ever showed up for, which was followed by another promised service call that never materialized.

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Wow, an independent, non-profit corporate watchdog founded by Congress?
No wonder no one's ever heard of it.

His big mistake, though, was correctly telling the Controller that someone should contact the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, since Comcast is clearly (and often) charging people for equipment and services they are not actually getting. This is not an exaggeration, Comcast making bogus charges is something you read about regularly. A quick look at their books should be able to verify this, and this is exactly why the PCAOB exists. It's the equivalent of threatening to call the Better Business Bureau for people who understand math. Despite the fact that it is objectively true that Comcast should be audited and probably fined because of their business practices, the cable giant took this as a threat. A threat from someone who wasn't recording their calls. 


Comcast's response to a letter from O'Rourke's lawyers.
(via Conal O'Rourke/Ars Technica)

Here's where things get messed up. Not long after talking to Comcast, Comcast talked to Mr. O'Rourke's higher-ups at PriceWaterhouseCooper. Apparently, PWC does some consulting work for Comcast, and Comcast used that relationship to claim that Conal had somehow used his job title to pressure Comcast into giving him special treatment. First of all, Conal denies that flatly, but secondly, I guess Comcast thinks not being robbed and actually getting the service you pay for is "special treatment." According to O'Rourke and his lawyers, someone must have quickly realized from the way he was talking that he was an accountant, and Googled him.

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OK, it's total speculation, but Comcast could easily disprove it if they released the calls.
(via Conal O'Rourke/Ars Technica)

Surprise, surprise: Conal got fired after the call from Comcast led to an ethics inquiry at his firm. Mr. O'Rourke claims he had never received negative feedback at work prior to being fired. In addition, he denies saying he worked for PWC and even Comcast acknowledges that his only "threat" was to report them to the proper authorities:


Translated from Lawyer: "Eat s*** and die, peasant." 
(via Conal O'Rourke/Ars Technica)

Most importantly, Comcast will not release any audio or transcripts from the calls, insisting that their summarizations are sufficient. As we all know, Comcast records everything for "quality assurance purposes," so this is horse-patootie. Likewise, neither Comcast nor PWC will say exactly what was discussed between them. PWC would only say that Mr. O'Rourke was fired for violating PWC's "ethical standards and practices." If Comcast released the audio, they could prove very simply that O'Rourke said he worked for PWC. This would disprove O'Rourke's theory that someone realized from the way that he was talking that he was an accountant and Googled him. It's not like Comcast's Office of the Controller is run by a former PWC partner who could have gone over O'Rourke's head and had him axed. Oh, wait, it is:


Chief Officer in charge of taking care of pesky little questions.

In conclusion, Comcast won't say what it told PWC, and PWC (which does millions of dollars in business with Comcast annually) won't say specifically why O'Rourke was fired. One would think that O'Rourke would also sue PWC for wrongful termination, but according to his lawyer, since PWC believed Comcast on the phone, "we didn't feel that contacting them would do any good until Comcast retracted their defamation, or until we get the tapes through litigation."

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So, there you go. Always record your calls. It's entirely possible that Conal was a dick on the phone with Comcast and talked about how any accountant with half a brain could prove that Comcast was engaging in criminal activity by charging people for products and services they didn't ask for and making it unbearable to dispute those charges. However, unless he actually said "I"m a big-shot at PWC and we're gonna pull up your books and bankrupt you unless you give me HBO On Demand free next month," there is no reason this should have happened. Consumerist asked a Comcast representative if contacting employers was company policy for Comcast: "Our customers deserve the best experience every time they interact with us." As for Mr. Conal: "we will review his lawyer’s letter and respond as quickly as possible."

Sure. Sure you will.

(by Johnny McNulty)

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P.S. - Let's take a moment to remember that 3.7 million Americans wrote the FCC last month to protest the merger of Time Warner and Comcast. That's more than twice the number of messages the FCC had ever received on any issue before—and the previous record-holder was Janet Jackson's Super Bowl boob. What did Comcast do? They bragged that the "silence" of everyone who didn't comment was an endorsement of their deal. But no, there's no way they could have gotten a guy fired because he called the head office and threatened to report them in a legally acceptable manner.

Sources: Ars Technica | Consumerist