DirecTV Settles Allegations of Deceptive Advertising
By: Attorney General Van Hollen
MADISON – Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen today announced a settlement with DirecTV over allegations that DirecTV has engaged in deceptive advertising. Under the terms of the judgment, which will be filed in Dane County Circuit Court, DirecTV must change its marketing practices, pay the state $185,000, and provide restitution for injured Wisconsin consumers. The settlement is the result of an investigation in which 48 other states and the District of Columbia participated. DirecTV must pay a total of $13.25 million to the states, as well as provide restitution to consumers nationwide who have been injured by DirecTV's practices.
Numerous consumers have filed complaints alleging, among other things, that DirecTV:
- Did not clearly disclose to consumers the price that the consumer would be charged and the commitment term that the consumer would be required to keep DirecTV services;
- Did not clearly disclose to consumers limitations on getting a certain price for DirecTV;
- Enrolled consumers in additional contracts or contract terms without clearly disclosing the terms to the consumer;
- Enrolled consumers in additional contracts when replacing defective equipment;
- Did not clearly disclose to consumers that they would automatically renew a seasonal sports package; and
- Offered cash back to consumers when the consumer would actually receive bill credits.
The settlement requires DirecTV to:
- Clearly disclose all material terms to consumers;
- Replace leased equipment that is defective at no cost except shipping costs;
- Not require the consumer to enter into an additional contract when simply replacing defective equipment;
- Clearly disclose when a consumer is entering into a contract;
- Clearly notify consumers before a consumer is obligated to pay for a seasonal sports package;
- Clearly disclose all limitations on the availability of local channels;
- Not misrepresent the availability of sports programming;
- Not represent that a consumer would get cash back if the consumer would actually get a bill credit; and
- Clearly notify consumers that they will be charged a cancellation or equipment fee at least 10 days before charging the fee.
The settlement also requires DirecTV to resolve consumer complaints about its practices. Unresolved complaints sent to DirecTV or the Attorney General that involve conduct addressed in the settlement and occurred after January 1, 2007 are eligible for the restitution program. Additionally, consumers can file a complaint with DirecTV or the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (at 1-800-422-7128) by June 9, 2011 to be considered for the restitution program as long as the complaint is about activity that occurred after January 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 is subject to approval by the Dane County Circuit Court. Assistant Attorney General John Greene represents the state in the action.