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Comcast Escapes Huge Fine in High-Profile Washington State Case

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Jun. 27 2019, Published 3:37 p.m. ET

Comcast sustains smaller fine than feared

A judge in Washington State early this month fined Comcast (CMCSA) $9.1 million for violating the state’s consumer protection law. The fine stemmed from a 2016 lawsuit that accused Comcast of charging tens of thousands of its customers in Washington without their consent. In addition to paying the $9.1 million fine, Comcast has also been ordered to refund the affected customers in the state within two months. Nearly 31,000 Comcast customers were affected by the problem.

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Although the ruling is a blow to Comcast because the company will have to part with some of its millions, thereby shrinking its bank account, it’s not all bad news for the company. The $9.1 million fine is only a tiny fraction of the $171 million penalty that the lawsuit sought, so the ruling delivers a huge saving for Comcast. Additionally, the judge rejected part of the accusations that the lawsuit made against Comcast.

Comcast sitting on $3.6 billion cash reserve

Parting with $9.1 million or a little more to settle the Washington State lawsuit won’t paralyze operations at Comcast. The company finished the first quarter with $3.6 billion in cash reserves. Walt Disney (DIS), Fox (FOXA), and Charter Communications (CHTR) exited the first quarter with cash reserves of $10.2 billion, $2.8 billion, and $1.6 billion. US cable companies like Comcast are trying to spend their cash prudently as they invest in upgrading their services to support faster broadband speeds as a guard against losing customers to 5G mobile Internet providers. Wireless providers AT&T (T) and Sprint (S) have begun offering 5G Internet service in parts of the United States.

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