Comcast has agreed to a $50 million settlement to a case regarding customers in the Philadelphia area. The lawsuit was filed more than a decade ago. Comcast continues to deny the allegations.
The original case failed before the Supreme Court, leading to a reduction in its scale. The $50 million includes a $16.7 million cash amount, and $33.3 million in “Settlement Credits” that will supply the aggrieved with free movies, among other options.
Around 800,000 subscribers are thought to be impacted. Former subscribers will be remitted $15. How many will apply for the funds is an open question.
As Ars Technica points out, the original suit sought $875 million. The lawsuit, reduced in scope, managed a minor fraction of that, around 5.7 percent. The settlement still needs court approval to take effect. According to Fox Business, the lawyers involved in the case are seeking up to $15 million in fees. If that sum comes out of the settlement chest, cash relief to the plaintiffs could be all but erased.
Recalling the original lawsuit, the scope of the alleged wrongdoing was not small. I quote at length to preserve tone:
Rather than compete against one another, large cable companies such as Defendant have divided and allocated markets through a series of agreements “swapping”customers and “clustering” cable systems in geographic areas. Such conduct has allowed a cable company, including Defendant, in a particular “cluster” to acquire or maintain monopoly power, raise prices, engage in anticompetitive conduct and limit choice for cable consumers to effectively the only game in town–the cable services of the “cluster” monopoly cable company.
This lawsuit seeks an injunction, treble damages and other relief against Comcast for its violations of federal antitrust law arising from Comcast’s imposition of horizontal market restraints by entering into and implementing agreements with competitors to “swap” their respective cable customers, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act and Comcast’s unlawful acquisition or maintenance of monopoly power, or its attempted monopolization of the relevant market, in its “cluster” in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act
The end result of the suit isn’t great — Comcast will not pay a material charge. If you do the math, presuming 800,000 subscribers exactly, and $50 million in the abstract, the total charge per-customer amounts to just over $60. That’s not much.