West Virginia Attorney General Sues Comcast Over Set-Tops

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The attorney general of West Virginia has sued Comcast, alleging that the cable operator violates state antitrust and consumer-protection laws by forcing subscribers to lease set-top boxes.

West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw filed suit against the cable company in the Circuit Court of Marshall County, W.Va., on July 1, according to the Mineral Daily News-Tribune in Keyser, W.Va.

The suit seeks damages on behalf of West Virginia consumers for the increased cost of cable services, plus statutory damages and civil penalties, and seeks an injunction against Comcast preventing similar conduct in the future, the newspaper reported.

A Comcast spokeswoman said the company had not seen a copy of the suit and declined to comment.

A lawyer in McGraw's office handling the case did not respond to requests for information, including whether the attorney general planned to sue other cable providers or satellite TV operators that provide service in the state.

Under a federal law enforced by the Federal Communications Commission, Comcast and other cable operators already are required to provide CableCard devices to customers who wish to access TV programming using a third-party device, such as a TiVo DVR.

The West Virginia suit appears similar to actions filed by consumers in California against Comcast and in Missouri against Time Warner Cable.

In the California case, a Comcast customer in Stockton, Calif., alleged that the cable company's set-top rental practice represents an "unlawful tying arrangement resulting in an impermissible restraint of trade" violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, among other laws.

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