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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
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Cable Co From Hell

SAN JOSE (CN) - After a yearlong dispute with Comcast, a customer claims in court that the cable provider called up his boss at a major accounting firm and got him fired.

Conal O'Rourke claims in Federal Court that higher-ups at Comcast cost him his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, to which Comcast pays $30 million a year for consulting services.

O'Rourke's problems started in February 2013, according to his Oct. 16 complaint, when Comcast overcharged him for premium channels and cable boxes.

Soon O'Rourke was embroiled in a telephone war with Comcast, and no matter how many times he tried to cancel his service, Comcast either ignored his calls or merely promised to do better, he says.

Instead of correcting the overcharges, O'Rourke says, in December 2013 Comcast sent him roughly $1,800 worth of equipment he didn't order. Then it sent his account to collections for non-payment, even though he personally returned all 12 pieces of equipment to a Comcast office.

In February this year, O'Rourke says, he called the Comcast Controller's Office and said that in the almost one year that he had been a Comcast customer, he had not received a single bill in which the charges were correct.

In a second call to the Controller's Office, O'Rourke says, he suggested that the best way for him to handle the billing errors might be to report Comcast to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, a nonprofit established by Congress that oversees public companies' accounting practices.

O'Rourke's complaint describes Comcast's reaction as ironically swift and efficient. "Unfortunately, instead of redressing Mr. O'Rourke's grievances, Comcast initiated a scorched-earth assault against him for expressing concerns over the legality of its conduct and the integrity of its accounting," the lawsuit states.

"On information and belief, defendants undertook these actions because they were concerned that Mr. O'Rourke would report them to the PCAOB, were angry that he had accused them of shoddy accounting practices, and wished to punish and destroy him for his temerity."

O'Rourke claims Comcast researched his background, and the controller himself, Lawrence Salva, also a former partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, called PWC's Joseph Atkinson in Philadelphia and accused O'Rourke of referring to his employment at PWC "as leverage in his 'negotiations' with Comcast."

The complaint continues: "Less than an hour after Mr. O'Rourke's second call with Comcast's Controller's Office, Mr. O'Rourke received a call from Mr. Atkinson. Mr. O'Rourke was shocked to receive the call - he had never before had occasion to deal with Mr. Atkinson. An angry Atkinson informed Mr. O'Rourke that he had received a call from Comcast's Controller about Mr. O'Rourke. Mr. Atkinson told Mr. O'Rourke that the client was very angry, very valuable, was in fact the Philadelphia office's largest client, with billings exceeding $30 million per year, and that Mr. O'Rourke was not to speak with anyone from Comcast."

O'Rourke claims that in the one interview he had with Human Resources over the phone, on Feb. 7 this year, he repeatedly requested that his employer obtain the recordings of his calls to Comcast to prove his innocence, but PWC refused to do so. It also refused to turn over a Comcast internal email summarizing his conversations with Comcast employees, O'Rourke says, though his termination was based on that email.

O'Rourke says he finally succeeded in ending his service with Comcast in March this year, but still hasn't found a new job and never was refunded the money he was overcharged.

On Oct. 8, Comcast Senior Vice President for "customer experience" Charlie Herrin posted "A Public Apology to Conal O'Rourke" on the corporate website, saying: "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."

O'Rourke seeks $1 million plus punitive damages for violation of the Cable Communications Policy Act, defamation, breach of contract, unfair business practices and infliction of emotional distress.

He is represented by Harmeet Dhillon with Dhillon Law Group in San Francisco.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers is not a party to the lawsuit.

Follow @MariaDinzeo
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