Attorney General Charlie Crist News Release
December 12, 2005
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
Crist, Attorneys General Sign $5 Million DIRECTV Settlement
TALLAHASSEE - Attorney General Charlie Crist today announced that Florida and 21 other states have reached a $5 million settlement with DIRECTV, addressing various allegations of misleading and deceptive advertising practices by the satellite television service provider. As part of the settlement, DIRECTV has agreed to pay restitution to consumers who were assessed a fee for terminating service before the "free programming offer" period expired, received fewer services than they paid for or were deceived by DIRECTV's advertising and sales pitches.
The settlement resolves allegations that DIRECTV's advertising was deceptive and misleading. The print ads made offers in big print that were modified or negated in extremely small, unreadable print that appeared at the bottom of the ads. In addition, the company allegedly trapped consumers in contracts that were not fully explained and often provided fewer services to consumers than originally promised, such as fewer channels in a package or blackout dates that prevented consumers from accessing features of their program package.
"Consumers must be treated fairly and honestly," said Crist. "To offer something in larger print but take parts of it back in smaller print is not the way to deal with customers. This settlement will make some important changes in this company's marketing practices."
To date some 170 Floridians have filed complaints with the Attorney General's Office regarding DIRECTV, some of which may be eligible for restitution. Among those who contacted the Attorney General's Office with a complaint were Bill and Sue Gainey of Deland. The Gaineys saw advertising that claimed DIRECTV would provide a free converter box with the installation of a second box. Contrary to the advertisement, the Gaineys were billed for both boxes. When DIRECTV failed to address their complaint, they turned to the Attorney General's Office for help.
Under today's settlement, DIRECTV agrees to clearly inform consumers of the total scope of their obligation if they accept a DIRECTV service and/or equipment offer listed in the company's advertisements. When DIRECTV sells its equipment directly to consumers, sales and customer service representatives will "conspicuously disclose" all material terms and conditions of the sale, including price, program commitment and activation requirements. The company will also change its installation and customer service policies, improving its response to consumers who need assistance with DIRECTV products.
Under the agreement, DIRECTV will also make clear to consumers which channels will be available and when programming and pricing changes might occur. When offering premium sports package to consumers, DIRECTV must make clear what blackout periods may apply and that all games may not be available. For consumer complaints that have not already been resolved, DIRECTV will make restitution or provide other appropriate relief to the consumer.
Consumers may be eligible to receive restitution under the settlement if they had complaints about the terms contained in their contracts, problems with installation, difficulties activating or receiving programming, or termination fees that were charged when they canceled their service.
To receive restitution, consumers must either have filed complaints in the past with the Attorney General or DIRECTV concerning these issues, or file complaints with the Attorney General or DIRECTV to be received no later than May 11, 2006.
Consumers who wish to file claims for restitution should either file a complaint with Attorney General Crist's toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226); fill out a complaint form via the Internet on Attorney General Crist's website www.myfloridalegal.com, or send a complaint to:
Office of the Attorney General
The Capitol PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050
Consumers may also send complaints to DIRECTV at:
State Complaint Program
P.O. Box 29079
Glendale, CA 91209-9079
Other states that joined the multistate agreement are Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, Vermont and West Virginia.
A copy of the multistate settlement is available at: http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/MRAY-6JZJW2/$file/DirecTVAVC.pdf