Alameda County District Attorney's Office
Nancy E. O'Malley, District Attorney

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DA Announces $25.95 Million Settlement with Comcast Cable Communications LLC for Violations

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley and Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced a settlement with Comcast Cable Communications LLC (“Comcast”) to resolve allegations that Comcast unlawfully disposed of hazardous waste and material, and discarded records without rendering private customer information unreadable. As part of the settlement, Comcast will pay a total of $25.95 million in penalties, costs, compliance measures and environmental projects. The settlement and proposed judgment, filed in Alameda County Superior Court, requires approval from the court before becoming final.

“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.”

This is another enforcement action in California against a telecommunications company for its management of electronic waste. In late 2014, the Alameda DA's Office settled with AT&T for similar environmental violations.

“This settlement holds Comcast accountable for unlawfully dumping electronic waste and failing to protect consumers’ private information,” Attorney General Harris said.

“The illegal disposal of hazardous waste can lead to serious environmental and health risks for California communities, and the failure to protect consumers’ private information exposes them to harm such as identity theft. Comcast will be required to implement strict compliance measures at its California facilities that set an example for other companies to safeguard our communities against hazardous waste and to protect consumers’ private information.”

The civil enforcement action and proposed settlement against Comcast were filed today in Alameda County Superior Court by District Attorney O’Malley and Attorney General Harris, and is the product of a robust investigation by these two offices assisted by the Department of Toxic Substances Control and the California Highway Patrol.

The enforcement action claims that Comcast’s warehouse and dispatch facilities, as well as customer service centers, throughout the state unlawfully handled and disposed of various hazardous wastes since 2005. Those hazardous wastes primarily consisted of electronic equipment, batteries, aerosol cans, as well as other items used by Comcast service technicians in providing internet and video services to residential and business customers in California.

In 2010, a whistleblower brought Comcast’s unlawful disposal of hazardous electronic items to prosecutors’ attention and starting in late-2010, inspectors from the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division and investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control conducted a series of waste inspections of dumpsters belonging to Comcast warehouse and dispatch facilities and customer service centers.

The inspections revealed that Comcast was routinely and systematically sending hazardous wastes to local landfills that were not permitted to receive those wastes, and were tossing documents containing sensitive customer information, such as names, addresses and phone numbers, into the trash without shredding them or making them unreadable, potentially exposing the information to identity thieves. The majority of the hazardous waste was electronic equipment consisting of items such as remote controls, splitters, routers, modems, amplifiers, taps, cable filters, and power adapters.

Upon notice of the investigation, Comcast took steps to cooperate and to dedicate additional resources toward environmental compliance and improving its hazardous and universal waste management compliance programs. Among other measures, Comcast hired several new staff dedicated specifically to the proper handling and management of hazardous waste, including the types of items found by the People in their inspections. In addition, in this 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.

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 supplemental environmental 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 expend a minimum of $700,000 to enhance its environmental compliance. Comcast will be bound under the terms of a permanent injunction prohibiting similar future violations of law.

There are 10 Comcast facilities in Alameda County and all 10 are subject to the terms of the settlement.

Posted on Dec 15, 2015