This morning, I was reading this article on the Consumerist about a man who cancelled his business service with Comcast. In summary, he had an early termination fee of $1,775 debited from his bank account, which shouldn't have happened because it was past the term of his two-year contract. Comcast do not dispute those facts, and have repeatedly told him that a check was on its way but, two years later, the man has still not been unable to get a refund. At one point, he was told by a company representative that refunds are not issued in these circumstances, and that he should instead dispute the charge with his bank.
I am interested in the potential criminal liability in a situation like this (not necessarily this one) where a company knowingly takes money it is not due from someone's bank account and clearly has no intention of returning it.
- Could the victim report this as fraud, theft or some other related crime?
- Would the answer to the previous question differ based on whether the victim was eventually able to recover the money through litigation or by disputing the charge with their bank?
- Would the company itself or the specific employees involved be liable?
- Would a binding arbitration clause in the contract have any effect on criminal liability (I believe not)?
I would be especially (but not exclusively) interested in answers covering either the United States or Canada (especially Québec).