BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Three Baltimore City Council members and the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition are asking the state to investigate Comcast for what they call “predatory price gouging.”

They say they’re concerned about the company’s new fees for internet data usage.

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In a letter written to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh on Tuesday, some Baltimore City council members and the Baltimore Digital Equity Coalition are claiming that new internet data cap fees created by Comcast are a predatory form of price gouging for Maryland consumers.

“To add this arbitrary capricious fee in the middle of a pandemic is unacceptable,” Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen said.

Cohen, along with Baltimore City council members Ryan Dorsey and Kris Burnett, say they learned that the company will charge $10 for every 50 gigabytes of data after internet customers go over a 1.2 terabyte limit, and can charge up to $100 dollars a month for the fees that they claim are a form of price gouging.

Maryland doesn’t have a permanent anti-price gouging law, but an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan allows the attorney general to investigate when sellers attempt to take unfair advantage of consumers during the COVID–19 emergency by excessively increasing profits for essential consumer goods and services.

Tia Price is the Director of the Digital Equity Coalition. It was formed during the pandemic to get internet access and devices to people in the city who don’t have them.

She said the fees should not be put in place especially right now.

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“If you are a family that is living paycheck to paycheck, which is a lot of people in Baltimore, having an additional $100 fee can be the difference between you being able to pay that utility and not,” Price said.

“We have to make sure that companies like Comcast are not able to benefit and make money off of a global pandemic,” she added.

The fees went into effect on January 1, but Comcast spokesperson Kristie Fox says there is a grace period for the fees and they won’t be charged until August 1.

In a statement, she said that 1.2 terabytes is a massive amount of data and a very small percentage of customers use more than 1.2 terabytes of monthly data and added that unlimited data options are available.

Comcast also says customers will get notifications when they are getting closer to the data threshold and can decide over the next few months if they need an unlimited data plan before they fees on their bills.

The attorney general’s office says they received the letter and will look into the issue.

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Stetson Miller