Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces $25.95 Million Settlement with Comcast Over Hazardous Waste Disposal And Privacy Violations

Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley today announced a settlement with Comcast Cable Communications LLC (“Comcast”) to resolve allegations that Comcast both unlawfully disposed of hazardous waste and discarded records without first omitting or redacting private customer information. As part of the settlement, Comcast will pay a total of $25.95 million. 

“Comcast’s careless and unlawful hazardous waste disposal practices jeopardized the health and environmental well-being of California communities and exposed their customers to the threat of identity theft,” said Attorney General Harris. “This agreement holds Comcast accountable for breaking the law and puts strict measures in place to prevent them from putting Californians and our environment at risk in the future.”

“Today’s settlement represents a victory in California’s ongoing efforts to ensure that hazardous waste is disposed of in a safe, legal and environmentally sustainable manner,” states Alameda County DA Nancy E. O’Malley. “Not only will my office pursue all necessary legal action against entities that pollute our environment, but we will also use all legal means to ensure California’s consumers’ private information is protected.  My office will continue to work together with state and local agencies to investigate and prosecute violations against our environment.”

The civil enforcement action and proposed settlement against Comcast were filed today in Alameda County Superior Court by Attorney General Harris and District Attorney O’Malley. The settlement requires court approval before it becomes final.

Today’s announcement stems from a robust investigation by the offices of Attorney General Harris and District Attorney O’Malley, assisted by the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Highway Patrol. According to the investigation, since 2005, Comcast warehouse and dispatch facilities and customer service centers throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous waste products, routinely and systematically sending these materials to local landfills that were not permitted to receive these items. The majority of the hazardous waste was electronic equipment such as remote controls, splitters, routers, modems, amplifiers, and power adapters. The investigation also uncovered that Comcast discarded documents containing sensitive customer information, including names, addresses and phone numbers, into the trash without shredding them or making them unreadable, potentially exposing the information to identity thieves.

If approved by the court, under the final judgment, Comcast must pay $19.85 million in civil penalties and costs. An additional $3 million will fund projects furthering environmental and consumer protection and enforcement in California. Comcast will also be providing CalRecycle with $2.25 million in airtime over a four-year period and $150,000 to develop and produce public service announcements that educate the public on the proper handling and disposal of hazardous waste they might generate, including electronics. Finally, Comcast will spend a minimum of $700,000 to enhance its environmental compliance and will be prohibited from violating these laws in the future, under the terms of a permanent injunction.

Upon notice of the investigation, Comcast agreed to cooperate and, at the request of the Attorney General and the Alameda County DA, took interim steps to improve its hazardous and universal waste management compliance programs. As part of the settlement, Comcast has committed to fund multiple measures over the next five years to enhance its environmental compliance. Comcast will also be required to hire an independent auditor to conduct three audits of its environmental and customer privacy compliance over the next five years. There are ten Comcast facilities in Alameda County and all ten facilities are subject to the terms of the settlement.

Last year, Attorney General Harris and District Attorney O’Malley reached a $23.8 million settlement with AT&T over similar hazardous waste disposal violations.

Copies of the civil enforcement action and proposed settlement are attached to the online version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.

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