BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley and the Attorneys General of 48 other states have reached a settlement with DirecTV, Inc. resolving allegations that the satellite television provider engaged in unfair and deceptive marketing and advertising practices. DirecTV has agreed to pay the states a total of $13.25 million. DirecTV also agreed to pay restitution to consumers and to alter its business practices in the future to ensure that consumers have clear disclosures of all material terms of their contracts. Of the $13.25 million payment to the states, Massachusetts, one of the eight states leading the multistate investigation, will receive $605,000.
“When choosing a telecommunications provider, consumers should be able to trust that the company is providing all pertinent information upfront,” said AG Coakley. “This settlement requires that DirecTV’s marketing provides consumers with all of the necessary information so that consumers can make informed choices.”
Over 800 customers have complained to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office since 2007 of various unfair practices by the satellite provider, including that DirecTV: did not clearly disclose limitations on getting a certain price; enrolled consumers in additional contracts or contract terms without clearly disclosing the terms to the consumer, on occasions such as at the time of replacing defective equipment, and then charged early cancellation fees when the consumer discontinued service; did not clearly disclose to consumers that they would automatically renew a seasonal sports package; and promised “cash back” to consumers as part of a promotion but then actually provided bill credits to the consumer. AG Coakley noted these allegations in a complaint filed in Massachusetts Superior Court today, and also alleged that DirecTV had run advertisements which failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose terms of its offers.
As the Attorney General’s Office has received consumer complaints it has brought them to the attention of DirecTV, which has represented that it has taken steps in the great majority of cases to rectify the problem.
Under the terms of today’s settlement, DIRECTV is required to modify its business practices. In addition to clearly disclosing all material terms to consumers, DirecTV will be required to replace leased equipment that is defective at no cost except shipping costs, 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, and clearly notify consumers that they will be charged a cancellation or equipment fee at least 10 days before charging the fee. In addition, DirecTV may not require consumers to enter into an additional contract when simply replacing defective equipment; and may not represent that a consumer will get cash back if the consumer will actually get a bill credit.
DirecTV customers in Massachusetts who have complaints may be eligible for restitution as part of this settlement if:
The complaint reflects conduct that occurred after January 1, 2007, related to issues addressed in the settlement, and if the customer has previously filed a complaint with DirecTV or with the Attorney General which has yet to be resolved.
OR if the consumer files a complaint with DirecTV or the Attorney General’s Office no later than May 16, 2011.
For information on filing a complaint against DirecTV with the Attorney General’s Office, consumers can visit the Attorney General’s website at www.mass.gov/ago or call AG Coakley’s Consumer Complaint Hotline at (617) 727-8400
Consumers can send claims for restitution directly to DirecTV by calling 1-800-DIRECTV, or visiting the DirecTV website, at www.directv.com.
Joining Massachusetts in today’s settlement are; the Attorneys General of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, 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, Wyoming and the District of Columbia
The case was handled for Massachusetts by Assistant Attorney General David W. Monahan, Deputy Chief of Attorney General Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division.