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Newlin v. Comcast Cable of Indiana, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

January 27, 2015

JOHN R. NEWLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMCAST CABLE OF INDIANA, INC., Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

THERESA L. SPRINGMANN, District Judge.

The Plaintiff, John R. Newlin, sought cable services from Defendant Comcast Cable of Illinois/Indiana/Michigan, Inc. After the Plaintiff discovered that the Defendant had obtained his credit report, despite the Plaintiff having invoked the Defendant's policy to accept a $50.00 deposit and positive proof of identification in lieu of checking his credit, he sued the Defendant for statutory damages under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), specifically ยง 1681n of Title 15 of the United States Code, as he did not suffer any actual damages. The Defendant does not deny that it obtained the consumer report, but disagrees that it violated the FRCA, much less that it committed a willful violation. The parties proceeded to trial without a jury. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), and after observation of the witnesses at trial and review of the trial exhibits, the Court enters the following written findings of facts and conclusions of law.

FINDINGS OF FACT

At trial, the Court heard testimony from the Plaintiff and from Rosario Sanfelice, Comcast's Director of Credit and Collections. The following facts are based on admitted exhibits and from testimony elicited at trial, and are undisputed except where noted.

In August 2012, the Plaintiff sought to buy cable services for his existing home. The Plaintiff and his wife settled on receiving services from the Defendant after reviewing the company's packages, pricing, and billing and credit policies. Because the Plaintiff and his wife anticipated looking for a new home and obtaining a mortgage, the Plaintiff considered it important that the Defendant's credit policy, which he obtained from its website, would permit him to avoid having his credit report reviewed. The policy provided:

A credit check and/or deposit is required for new customers (and customers with less than six (6) months of payment history) who lease more valuable Comcast equipment or request Comcast Digital Voice services with a new phone number. If you select a credit check, you may also be asked to pay a partial deposit. If you do not want a credit check, you may choose to pay the full deposit. The full amount of any deposit will be applied to your account balance after twelve (12) months, as long as the account has been in good standing for the previous six (6) months.

(Tr. Ex. 3.) The Plaintiff was being diligent about his credit rating and believed that a check on his credit would negatively impact his credit score.

On August 6, 2012, the Plaintiff contacted Comcast using the online instant messaging services available through the company's website. After he had selected the cable television services he wished to purchase, the following exchange took place between the Plaintiff and the customer service representative who was helping him:[1]

Atul kumar>
You have chosen a great package with excellent features and benefits that I am certain you will enjoy. So let me go ahead and provide you with the best customer service experience as well.
Atul kumar>
Comcast has recently adopted stricker [sic] Federal guidelines to protect our customers from Identity theft. In order for me to create your Comcast account, I'm required to do a Credit Check. May I have the following information in order to process a credit check. Your complete Social Security Number?
Guest_>
on your website it says that I can pay a deposit of $50 and not have a credit check ...

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