Company Settles Allegations of Deceptive & Unfair Practices
(DES MOINES, Iowa) Attorney General Tom Miller announced today that DIRECTV has agreed to change its business practices and pay restitution to customers, in a $13.25 million settlement with attorneys general in 49 states, including Iowa. The settlement follows a petition filed by Miller.
The settlement helps resolve a number of complaints that Iowans filed with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division since January of 2006. So far this year consumers have filed 92 complaints with the Consumer Protection Division, and 150 complaints in 2009. As part of the agreement, DIRECTV must make restitution to qualified consumers, pay civil penalties and costs, and obey Iowa’s consumer laws.
“DIRECTV gained many Iowa customers by offering special promotions. Unfortunately, many of these deals contained hidden costs, commitments and other fine print that misled consumers,” Miller said. “This settlement helps reimburse these Iowa consumers, and the company must change the way it does business in the future.”
Contracts, Prices, Fees & Credits
The Consumer Protection Division received complaints from consumers that DIRECTV did not clearly disclose its prices, limitations of promotional offers, or commitment terms. The pricing complaints included consumer allegations that DIRECTV did not clearly disclose limitations on getting a certain price or promotional price for their satellite TV service. Under the agreement, DIRECTV must clearly disclose all material terms to customers.
Consumers also complained about additional contracts, claiming that DIRECTV enrolled them in additional contracts or contract terms without clearly disclosing them, including additional contracts when DIRECTV replaced defective equipment. DIRECTV has agreed to not require consumers to enter into additional contracts when simply replacing defective equipment, and to replace defective leased equipment at no cost beyond shipping costs.
In addition, DIRECTV has agreed to clearly notify consumers that they will be charged a cancellation or equipment fee at least ten days before charging the fee.
Consumers who are owed credit by the company will be clearly informed of that credit, and DIRECTV has agreed not to misrepresent that a consumer will get cash back.
Programming & Sports Packages
DIRECTV, according to consumers, did not clearly disclose that it would automatically renew a seasonal sports package. DIRECTV has agreed to do so, and to not misrepresent the availability of sports programming.
DIRECTV also agrees to clearly disclose all limitations on the availability of local channels.
Consumers with unresolved complaints already on file with DIRECTV or the Consumer Protection Division alleging that they experienced any of these unfair practices after Jan. 1, 2007 may be eligible for a refund.
Consumers can also file a complaint with DIRECTV or the Consumer Protection Division to be considered for a refund if the problem with DIRECTV occurred after Jan. 1, 2007.
DIRECTV will attempt to resolve the complaints with consumers. If the complaint cannot be resolved, DIRECTV shall inform the consumer that the complaint can be resolved by a Claims Administrator and mail a Claim Form to the consumer. The Claims Administrator will then resolve the dispute between the consumer and DIRECTV.
The settlement includes a $185,000 payment to the State of Iowa for litigation and consumer education.
The 48 states joining Iowa include: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The District of Columbia is also part of the settlement.
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. Call 515-281-5926, or in Iowa outside of the Des Moines area, call 1-888-777-4590, toll-free. The Attorney General’s web site is: www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov.
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