[Update] Comcast Customer Details Firing Allegation

Comcast now offering a public apology, says it didn't ask for him to be fired.


[Update 3:30 p.m.] Comcast has sent out a press release with the title “A Public Apology to Conal O’Rourke” — and it comes straight from Charlie Herrin, the new vice president in charge of putting an end to Comcast’s persistent public perception problem regarding its customer service:

What happened with Mr. O’Rourke’s service is completely unacceptable. Despite our attempts to address Mr. O’Rourke’s issues, we simply dropped the ball and did not make things right. Mr. O’Rourke deserves another apology from us and we’re making this one publicly. We also want to clarify that nobody at Comcast asked for him to be fired.

We’re also determined to get to the bottom of exactly what happened with his service, figure out what went wrong at every point along the way, and fix any underlying issues. I’m a few weeks into a new role at Comcast which is entirely focused on what we can do to make the customer experience better. We need to make sure that every interaction is excellent … from the moment a customer orders a new service, to the installation, to the way we communicate with them, to how we respond to any issues.

We’re holding ourselves accountable and we are working hard to make real improvements across the board. While it will take us some time, we can and will do better than this.

Emphasis added. The question remains, though: Will O’Rourke get his job back? We’ll probably find out soon.

[Original] The man who says Comcast got him fired from his accounting job — for complaining about the company’s customer service — has emerged fully into the spotlight: His name is Conal O’Rourke, and he has provided new details about his case against the Philadelphia-based cable giant.

Consumerist first told O’Rourke’s story this week, calling him only by his first name and omitting some details about O’Rourke’s employment. Ars Technica has now followed with a much more detailed story, backed up by “astonishing” documentation, including a 10-page letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

What follows is based on his claims to Consumerist and Ars:

The basic bones of the story remain the same: O’Rourke, a Northern California accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, first purchased Comcast service in 2013 — and almost immediately ran into billing problems. Repeated calls didn’t result in a resolution, so O’Rourke (again, being an accountant) called up the office of Comcast controller Frank Salva. It was during a second call to the controller’s office that things, finally, began to go really bad — with O’Rourke threatening to report the whole matter to the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

Ars Technica quotes O’Rourkes’ lawyer on the next twist:

Because Comcast was a major consulting services client of PWC’s, someone from the Controller’s office contacted Mr. Joseph Atkinson, a partner in the Philadelphia office of PWC, and falsely told Mr. Atkinson that Mr. O’Rourke had invoked his employment with PWC in an attempt to somehow obtain leverage in his negotiations with Comcast. Mr. Atkinson informed Mr. O’Rourke that the client was very valuable, was the Philadelphia office’s largest client with billings [REDACTED], that the client was very angry as a result of Mr. O’Rourke’s complaints, and that Mr. O’Rourke was not to speak with anyone from Comcast. While all of this was happening, Comcast continued to communicate sporadically and ineffectively with Mr. O’Rourke, setting up two service appointments that they missed without explanation on February 7, 2014 and February 11, 2014.

From the original Consumerist story: “Conal insists that he never mentioned his employer by name, but believes that someone in the Comcast Controller’s office looked him up online and figured out where he worked.”

On February 7th, O’Rourke was put under an ethics investigation by PwC. On February 18th he was fired.

A PwC spokeswoman told Ars:

“Mr. O’Rourke was employed in one of our internal firm services offices,” she wrote. “The firm terminated his 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.”

O’Rourke, of course, insists he did not use his employer’s name to gain leverage in his discussions with Comcast. “We are confident that Comcast’s own recording the phone calls will reveal that Mr. O’Rourke did not mention his position with PwC and simply requested, for the twentieth time, that Comcast stop overcharging him and correct his erroneous bills,” O’Rourke’s lawyer said in a letter to Comcast.

Comcast declined to answer specific questions, but told Ars that “our customers deserve the best experience every time they interact with us. We have previously apologized to Mr. O’Rourke, but we will review his lawyer’s letter and respond as quickly as possible.”

So what now? O’Rourke wants $100,000 in damages from Comcast, and a return his job with PricewaterhouseCoopers in San Jose. He says he’ll file a lawsuit if his demands aren’t met by October 14th.