Comcast and its Impermissible Credit Report Access

We are seeing a pattern emerge whereby Comcast/Xfinity is gaining access to consumers’ credit reports without having the consumers’ permission nor a permissible purpose to obtain the report under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  In a few occasions now, we have seen them gain access to the reports of our clientele.  While we are currently taking action against them for this conduct, others have too… and with success…

How Comcast is Illegally Gaining Access–“Soft Inquiries”

There are two different ways we have seen this activity by Comcast.  One is where they are performing a “soft inquiry” on your credit report to determine whether you may qualify for certain promotions.  Essentially, they have a representative at a local strip mall or public area where someone approaches consumers to ask if they are happy with their cable and are interested in considering their promotions.  If the consumer expresses interest, the representative obtains enough information to check into the consumer’s credit file and they perform a soft inquiry.  Regardless of whether the inquiry is a hard inquiry that remains on your report and affects your score, or a soft one that does not, the FCRA controls this matter.  Unless the consumer actually applies to become a customer, there is no legitimate reason to review the credit reports.

Bypass the Credit Check for a Fee–but Still Does a Credit Check

This leads to the second way that Comcast is improperly accessing reports.  Comcast has offered to consumers the option at sign up of paying a fee (usually $50 or $100) in lieu of having a credit check.  Many consumers are concerned about having their credit reviewed, and will ask Comcast if a credit check is required.  Comcast offers to bypass the credit check for a fee. However, Comcast performs the credit check nonetheless.  Is this legal?  Courts are saying NO.

Santelangelo v. Comcast

In at least one case, Santelangelo v. Comcast, this scenario played out where the consumer paid a fee in lieu of a credit check – which Comcast did anyway.  Comcast argued that regardless of the “fee in lieu” it is part of their subscriber agreement that a credit check is performed.  The court (Northern District of Illinois) disagreed.   The court found that under Comcast’s theory, every customer who becomes a subscriber has retroactively agreed to a credit check, even when he or she paid a $50 deposit to Comcast in exchange for Comcast’s promise that it would not initiate one. However, when Comcast and a future customer agree that Comcast will take a deposit in lieu of conducting a credit check, the individual is only a potential subscriber, who has not even been provided a subscription agreement to review.  The credit check was therefore impermissible and in violation of the FCRA.  

If you are being subjected to a credit check where you have not given your permission, contact SmithMarco, P.C. for a free case review. 

Larry Smith

Consumer Rights Attorney at SmithMarco, P.C.
Larry P. Smith is a consumer attorney and the founder and Managing Partner at SmithMarco, P.C. He has tried dozens of consumer rights cases to verdict and has arbitrated over 700 cases. Additionally, he has amicably resolved over 3,000 consumer fraud, Fair Credit Reporting Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act cases via settlement. Mr. Smith has been a guest on multiple radio outlets including WLS and WGN in Chicago providing consumer advice. Mr. Smith also provides leadership and delivers lectures to the National Association of Consumer Advocates, The National Consumer Law Center, and the Chicago Bar Association.
Larry Smith

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