Did Comcast arrange to have a fed-up customer fired from his job?

A former Comcast customer who complained about his service says that the cable giant contacted his employer, who subsequently fired him.

Gene J. Puskar/AP/File
The Comcast logo is displayed on one of their vehicles, in Pittsburgh, in 2011. A California accountant is claiming that Comcast arranged to have him fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which works closely with the broadcasting and cable company.

Could complaining to Comcast about your service end up costing you your job? That's what former Comcast customer Conal O’Rourke says happened to him.

The California financial specialist told Ars Technica that his experience with the cable and Internet giant's customer service had been sour from the start, noting billing disputes and extra fees. 

It’s fair to say that, since then, their relationship has tanked. Mr. O’Rourke alleges that Comcast used customer service phone calls and documents that tracked misplaced charges to get him fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which works closely with the broadcasting and cable company. O’Rourke says Comcast pressured his employer into firing him after O’Rourke, who was in the middle of a protracted billing dispute with the cable company, announced his intention to go to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. 

O’Rourke told Ars that mishandlings of his account escalated over his months as a customer. At one point, he said to a Comcast representative, “You have sloppy accounting, you don’t take anything seriously,” Ars reported. 

After this comment and the threat to go to the oversight board, O’Rourke’s lawyer says that Comcast then researched him to determine where he worked. Comcast, for their part, says it was O’Rourke who told the company that he worked for PWC. A letter from O’Rourke’s lawyer says that Comcast is a “major client of PWC’s, worth upwards of $30 million a year.”  

“He claimed that he never used PWC’s name, and I believe him,” O'Rourke's lawyer, Maureen Ryan, says of her client. Ms. Ryan noted that PWC was providing consulting services to, not auditing, Comcast — the structure of the companies’ working relationship, then, would give her client little leverage if he mentioned his company’s name.

For nearly three years, O’Rourke worked as a senior associate learning consultant at PWC and, in his LinkedIn profile, said he was responsible for planning and delivering learning and development curriculum. Before starting at PWC in January 2012, he worked at Accenture for nearly two decades.

In an Oct. 2 letter, Ms. Ryan noted that O’Rourke seeks $100,312.50, his job with PWC restored, and a full retraction and apology. The request remains open until next Tuesday. Ars reports that O’Rourke has since opened an account with AT&T. 

PWC responded to an interview request with a statement that “the firm terminated [O’Rourke’s] employment after an internal investigation concluded that Mr. O’Rourke violated PWC’s ethical standards and practices, applicable to all of our people. The firm has explicit policies regarding employee conduct, we train our people in those policies, and we enforce them. Mr. O’Rourke’s violation of these policies was the sole reason for his termination."

In late September, Comcast’s president and CEO said that the company has made “significant changes and investments in customer service,” citing new tools in call centers for better employee performance. But in the same statement, Neil Smit acknowledged that “transformation isn’t going to happen overnight.” 

“In fact,” he wrote, “it may take a few years before we can honestly say that a great customer experience is something we’re known for. But that is our goal and our number one priority…and that’s what we’re going to do.”  A representative from Comcast did not return requests for comment. 

Videos of calls to Comcast (dubbed “nightmarish,” “embarrassing” and “the world’s WORST”) have circulated online over the past few years, with users complaining of poor customer service.

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