Comcast Refuses to Recall A Known Defective Model of Routers

By | June 23, 2016

I work as for a small business that provides IT support to local small businesses and residential customers. This week, I was given what seems like a simple task- set up a wireless printer/scanner. It should have been very simple- download the print driver from HP’s website, install it, change default printers for their programs to the new printer, and verify that it works by printing a test page/scanning a test page. The entire process should have taken less than 30 minutes.

However, things became very complicated. One of the systems couldn’t see the printer after installing the driver, and I had to manually type in the printer’s IP address to get it to work. Downloads on this computer would randomly time out, and the user reported that it was “slow”.  The computer did have other issues that I managed to fix, so at the time, I still felt it was possible that the Windows installation was corrupted(this turned out not to be the case after further testing).

After I restarted a different computer to resolve another issue, scanning/printing functionality suddenly stopped working. At this point, I began to think that something was up with their wireless network. After bringing the “slow” laptop over to our shop, it began functioning perfectly. Internet tasks that took several minutes at their house finished within seconds at our shop.

At this point, I was relatively certain that their router was defective. We told them to visit their local Comcast branch office, and trade in their router/modem(it’s an all in one device) for a new one.

Today, they told me their story of when they visited Comcast. “They said that as soon as they pulled up my account, they knew the issue.” They told him that his model of router/modem has given them nothing but trouble, and that it frequently results in problems. They then provided them with a new one.

Upon them setting up the router, and us setting up the wireless printer with the new network, the rest of the problems were magically solved. There were no connectivity issues, speeds were fast, and the computers had no trouble finding the printers.

The issue I have here is that Comcast is doing absolutely nothing to fix this issue unless customers explicitly complain to them. Seeing as they have records of which models are being leased out to customers, they should be able to write a script that provides them with a schedule for phasing out this model, and replacing them with newer, non-defective models.

This choice by Comcast is ultimately a business decision. Replacing the router of every customer that happens to use that model would prove to be very expensive. It isn’t just the cost of providing the new part- they would also have to provide customer support to millions of customers to help them figure out how to set the new one up. Looking at their quarterly reports, Comcast certainly can afford to do this, although it probably isn’t worth it in terms of improving profitability.

The result of them refusing to recall the defective model is that they can shift the blame and expenses onto other companies. Our customer believed at first that we had sold them a defective computer. To a non-tech savvy consumer, this is the easiest conclusion to reach:

  • Their  computer(connected wirelessly) was very slow when using the internet, whereas their other computer(which happened to be connected directly via ethernet) was perfectly fine.
  • Their router “worked” in that they could access the internet, so it couldn’t be Comcast.

I ended up wasting well over 2 hours troubleshooting problems that stem from Comcast’s failure to provide good customer service. These were hours that had to be billed to the customer, and it wasn’t cheap. Comcast walked away without any charges(other than finally replacing the router) while we spent our time figuring out that they are the source of the problem.

I’m not saying Comcast is making the wrong decision by not recalling this brand of models/routers. From a business standpoint, they save a massive amount of money by only replacing them when customers complain. The vast majority of consumers would never realize that it was Comcast’s fault unless their internet stopped working altogether- so they end up frustrated, but they aren’t frustrated at Comcast, so it doesn’t hurt their bottom line.

However, I believe that from an ethical standpoint, they are doing the wrong thing. They’re providing poor service and refusing to take action to fix preventable problems, due to the simple fact that most consumers would not realize that Comcast is at fault.